Report urges capping U.S. prison sentences at 20 years to end mass incarceration

The report recommends seven legislative reforms “to cap sentences at 20 years and right-size the sentencing structure”:

  • Abolish death and life without parole sentences, limiting maximum sentences to 20 years;
  • Limit murder statutes to intentional killing, excluding sentences such as felony murder, and reduce homicide penalties;
  • Eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing and reform sentencing guidelines to ensure that judges can use their discretion to consider mitigating circumstances;
  • Provide universal access to parole and ensure timely review;
  • Eliminate consecutive sentences and limit sentence enhancements, including repealing “truth-in-sentencing” and “habitual offender” laws;
  • Create an opportunity for judicial “second look” re-sentencing within a maximum of 10 years of imprisonment, regardless of an individual’s offense; and
  • Shift all sentences downward, including by de-felonizing many offenses and decriminalizing many misdemeanors.
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