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Nazgol Ghandnoosh

Senior Research Analyst, The Sentencing Project
Areas of Expertise:

About Nazgol

Ghandnoosh conducts and synthesizes research on criminal justice policies. She has written about the racial gap in punitiveness, efforts to reduce racial disparities in criminal justice outcomes, and the dramatic reductions in New York, New Jersey, and California’s prison populations. Her current projects underscore the need for reforming severe sentences. Her dissertation examined resistance to mass incarceration through an in-depth study of a South Los Angeles-based group advocating for higher parole rates for term-to-life prisoners.

In the News

Nazgol Ghandnoosh quoted by Damini Sharma and Weihua Li, "US Prison Populations Down 8% Amid Coronavirus Outbreak" The Independent Record, July 16, 2020.
Nazgol Ghandnoosh quoted on inadequate services for female inmates by Lison Knezevich, "Maryland Plans a Coed Training Center for Inmates Heading Home, but Women’s Advocates Say it’s not Enough" Capital Gazette Online, January 28, 2020.
Nazgol Ghandnoosh's research on incarceration policies discussed by Alan Neuhauser, "DOJ Touts 10-Year Drop in Incarceration Rates," US News and World Report, April 25, 2019.
Nazgol Ghandnoosh's research on New Hampshire prisons dealing with opioid crisis discussed by Ben Henry, "Part 2: One Month Out," NHPR, February 22, 2019.
"Stiffening Immigration Enforcement is not the Answer to Reducing Crime," Nazgol Ghandnoosh (with Alex Nowrasteh), The Hill, April 7, 2017.
"Maryland Should Make Parole a Meaningful Part of Sentencing Again," Nazgol Ghandnoosh, The Washington Post, February 13, 2017.
Nazgol Ghandnoosh quoted on the development of the "Prisons Today" exhibit at Eastern State Penitentiary by Amy McKeever, "Eastern State Penitentiary and the Critique of Mass Incarceration" Pacific Standard, July 19, 2016.
Guest to discuss how distortions in media crime coverage feed implicit racial biases on On the Media: Racial Bias in Crime Reporting, Nazgol Ghandnoosh, June 5, 2015.
"Becoming Smart on Crime," Nazgol Ghandnoosh, The News-Gazette, April 26, 2015.
"It Starts off as an Arrest and Things Get out of Control’: Why Broken Windows Must be Scaled Back," Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Interview with Elias Isquith, Salon, February 12, 2015.
"Life, with a Possibility of Blocked Parole," Nazgol Ghandnoosh, San Francisco Daily Journal, September 25, 2014.
Guest to discuss female incarceration on Arise America: Female Prison Population, Nazgol Ghandnoosh, August 6, 2014.
Nazgol Ghandnoosh quoted on consequences of using past records as a measure of risk by Renee Lewis, "Holder: Data-Driven Sentencing ‘Unfair’’ to Minorities" Al Jazeera America, August 1, 2014.
Nazgol Ghandnoosh quoted on scale of drug offenses by Gilman Halsted, "Is It True That State Prisons are Filled with Nonviolent Drug Offenders?" Wisconsin Public Radio, July 7, 2014.
"Can We Wait 88 Years to End Mass Incarceration?," Nazgol Ghandnoosh (with Marc Mauer), Huffington Post, December 20, 2013.


"A Second Look at Injustice," The Sentencing Project, 2021, May 12, 2021.

Examines the evidence supporting second look reforms and presents in-depth accounts of three reform efforts that can be models for the nation: California's Assembly Bill 2942 (2018), allowing district attorneys to initiate resentencings, DC’s Second Look Amendment Act (2020), allowing those who committed crimes as emerging adults to petition for resentencing after 15 years of imprisonment, and New York State’s Elder Parole bill, which would allow people aged 55 and older who have served over 15 years in prison to receive a parole hearing.

"Can We Wait 60 Years to Cut the Prison Population in Half?," The Sentencing Project, January 22, 2021.

Reveals significant variation across states in decarceration and highlights the overall modest pace of reforms relative to the massive imprisonment buildup. Following a nearly 700% increase between 1972 and 2009, the U.S. prison population declined 11% in the subsequent 10 years. At this rate of decline it will take 57 years — until 2078 — to cut the prison population in half. 


"Decarceration and Community Re-Entry in the COVID-19 Era," (with Carlos Franco-Paredes, Hassan Latif, Martin Krsak, Andres F Henao-Martinez , Megan Robins, Lilian Vargas Barahona, and Eric M Poeschla), September 29, 2020.

Argues that since U.S. jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers are exceptionally susceptible to viral outbreaks such as SARS-CoV-2, substantial decarceration should be initiated, particularly for people older than 55 years who are especially at risk of severe COVID-19 and often pose little public safety risk.

"Immigration and Public Safety," (with Josh Rovner), The Sentencing Project, 2017.

Argues that policies further restricting immigration are ineffective crime-control strategies because foreign-born residents of the United States commit crime less often than native-born citizens.

"Delaying a Second Chance: The Declining Prospects for Parole on Life Sentences," The Sentencing Project, 2017.

Demonstrates that people serving parole-eligible life sentences are imprisoned longer than their counterparts in the past. Identifies four factors driving this growth in prison terms based on data from 31 states and the federal government for available years since 1980.

"Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System," The Sentencing Project, February 2015.

Highlights initiatives in more than 20 states designed to address the four causes of racially unequal outcomes in the criminal justice system.

"Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies," The Sentencing Project, September 2014.

Synthesizes two decades of research revealing that white Americans’ strong association of crime with African Americans and Latinos is related to their greater support for punitive policies.

"Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime: A Tale of Three States," (with Marc Mauer), The Sentencing Project, July 2014.

Profiles the experiences of three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – that have reduced their prison populations by about 25% in the past decade while seeing their crime rates generally decline at a faster pace than the national average.