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The Sentencing Project

Research Human Rights & Constitutional Rights Support for Ending Life Sentences

This project will help reframe US extreme sentencing practices within a human rights and civil rights context as a central step in rethinking our punishment paradigm.

Posted August 31, 2020

Background & Context

The Sentencing Project is engaged in a multi-year Campaign to End Life Imprisonment. Much social science has established that our life sentences and extreme sentencing have little to no public safety benefit but inflict much harm on individuals and communities while supporting our system of mass incarceration and racial injustice. However, more work needs to be done to create legal human and civil rights frames to both support advocacy and support jurisprudential development.

Immediate Problem

This project will expand the legal strategy and advocacy frame to approach extreme sentencing by expanding our human rights and civil rights frames and provide a better roadmap for advocacy campaign strategy to work in concert with legal and policy strategy to support developing "contemporary standards of decency" that inform the 8th Amendment test and help establish new norms for the American punishment paradigm.

Work & Deliverables

Research and analysis examining existing international human rights, federal and state civil rights cases and constitutional claims to set forth a framework for rejecting life sentences, especially life without parole (LWOP) sentences. Additionally, an analysis of what frameworks we might use both in the international and domestic context to highlight racial discrimination and racial justice issues inherent to extreme sentencing in the United States.

Project Plan

Preparation Phase

  • Meeting, overview, discussion with Director

Collaboration Phase

  • Weekly check-ins during research and writing phase

Wrap Up

  • Review and polishing of legal memo; discussion of potential publication and public education events

This project is complete!

This project has been completed thanks to the efforts of our volunteers.

Visit the Project Directory to check out other projects that still need your help!

Additional Information

  • Time Commitment: 11-20 hours
  • Training Provided: No
  • Site-Preference: Remote
  • Open to Law Students: No
  • Bar License(s) required: Any Bar License
  • Required Languages: None
  • Mentoring Provided: Yes
  • Supervision Provided: Yes
The Sentencing Project

The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by producing groundbreaking research to promote reforms in sentencing policy, address unjust racial disparities and practices, and to advocate for alternatives to incarceration.

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