Blog of Rights

Vanita
Gupta

Vanita Gupta is Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union and Director of the ACLU’s Center for Justice, which houses the organization’s criminal justice reform, prisoners’ rights, and capital punishment work. She is leading the ACLU’s National Campaign to End Overincarceration. In addition, Vanita is an adjunct clinical professor at NYU School of Law, where she teaches and oversees a racial justice litigation clinic.

 

From 2006-2010, Vanita was a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, focusing on systemic criminal justice reform, immigration detention, and education litigation. She won a landmark settlement on behalf of immigrant children detained in a privately-run prison in Texas that led to the end of “family detention” at the facility. Prior to joining the ACLU, Vanita was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where she successfully led the effort to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 individuals in Tulia, Texas, and served on the legal team that won freedom for renowned prison journalist Wilbert Rideau in his fourth retrial after he had already spent 44 years in prison. She also successfully won significant sentence reductions for several men subject to harsh New York Rockefeller drug penalties.

 

Vanita has won numerous awards for her advocacy and has been quoted extensively in national and international media on racial justice and criminal justice issues. In 2011, the National Law Journal recognized her as a Top 40 Minority Lawyer Under 40. She serves on the board of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Vanita is a graduate of Yale University and New York University School of Law.

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Extreme Sentencing – the "New Normal?"

Extreme Sentencing – the "New Normal?"

By Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice & Chloe Cockburn, Advocacy and Policy Counsel, ACLU at 1:33pm
It should outrage us that a homeless man will be in prison for the rest of his life because he was the middleman in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana. We can all pretty much agree that the punishment of growing old and dying behind bars for such offenses is a wildly extreme, tragic and wasteful overreaction to the crime.
How to Really End Mass Incarceration

How to Really End Mass Incarceration

By Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice at 9:45am

In 2003, I represented dozens of African-American residents in Tulia, Tex., who had been convicted after a botched drug sting. Jason Jerome Williams, a 22-year-old with no prior criminal record, had been sentenced to 45 years in prison for four sales of an eighth of an ounce of cocaine.

How to Process Eric Holder’s Major Criminal Law Reform Speech

How to Process Eric Holder’s Major Criminal Law Reform Speech

By Laura W. Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice at 2:10pm

Attorney General Eric Holder just called mass incarceration a moral and economic failure. He just outlined several major proposals that he says will help to ease major overcrowding in federal prisons. And he just suggested that federal prosecutors…

End the Numbers Game: Police Should Not Be Rewarded for Making Marijuana Arrests

End the Numbers Game: Police Should Not Be Rewarded for Making Marijuana Arrests

By Ezekiel Edwards, Director, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project & Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice at 1:40pm

Every 37 seconds, another person is needlessly ensnared in the criminal justice system just for having marijuana...

Open Letter to the Corrections Corporation of America after 30 Years of Locking People Up for Profit

Open Letter to the Corrections Corporation of America after 30 Years of Locking People Up for Profit

By Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice at 12:41pm

What do I have to say to the Corrections Corporation of America?

After 30 years, CCA should be ashamed.

For thirty years, CCA's profits have grown because more people are behind bars. For CCA, the fact that America incarcerates more…

Too Many Still Wait to Hear Gideon's Trumpet

Too Many Still Wait to Hear Gideon's Trumpet

By Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice & Ezekiel Edwards, Director, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project at 11:38am

Fifty years ago, 52-year old drifter Clarence Earl Gideon was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced without a lawyer to five years imprisonment for stealing bottled drinks and vending machine coins...

It's Time to Discuss Criminal Justice Reform

It's Time to Discuss Criminal Justice Reform

By Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice & Ezekiel Edwards, Director, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project at 2:51pm

Presidential election season is prime time for predictions. One sure bet is this: neither candidate is likely to make criminal justice a stump issue.

Hitting Two Birds with One Stone: Strategies for Addressing the Indigent Defense Crisis and Overincarceration

Hitting Two Birds with One Stone: Strategies for Addressing the Indigent Defense Crisis and Overincarceration

By Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice & Steve Hanlon, Partner, Holland & Knight at 1:07pm

Earlier this year, the Orleans Parish Defenders Office (OPD), which represents more than 80 percent of criminal defendants in Orleans Parish and handled 30,000 cases in 2011, faced a particularly severe fiscal crisis.

Why Are We Spending So Much To Lock Up Elderly Prisoners Who Pose Little Threat?

Why Are We Spending So Much To Lock Up Elderly Prisoners Who Pose Little Threat?

By Inimai Chettiar, ACLU & Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice at 3:07pm

Elderly prisoners are the least dangerous group of people behind bars but the most expensive to incarcerate. Yet despite this truth, the number of elderly prisoners is skyrocketing. Harsher sentences for less serious crimes – one defining characteristic of our failed “tough on crime” and “war on drugs” policies – are responsible for this staggering increase in the number of older prisoners, and taxpayers are taking the hit.

Georgia Chooses Path Toward Criminal Justice Reform; Oklahoma Misses an Opportunity

Georgia Chooses Path Toward Criminal Justice Reform; Oklahoma Misses an Opportunity

By Vanita Gupta, Center for Justice & Inimai Chettiar, ACLU at 1:51pm

This year, both Georgia and Oklahoma took up criminal justice reform, but ended up in two quite different places.

In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill this week that takes a smart approach to criminal justice. The new law creates less…

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