Urban Institute: Evaluate the Debate

For Immediate Release:

Incarceration Project Update: Who Gets Time for Federal Drug Offense? Data Trends and Opportunities for Reform

New York, NY – March 23 2016 – In preparation for the upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing set for March 29th, the Task Force has concluded that the United State’s recent prison population growth stems primarily from the length of time people are required to serve in prison for federal drug offenses based upon data analysis of federal sentencing and corrections.

These findings shift the focus and priority of the Task Force’s policy recommendations to make big cuts in lengths of stay for drug offenses, as the data suggests that these longer sentences work to raise recidivism rates. The individuals serving time were overwhelmingly shown to have minimal prior convictions, a lower risk of recidivism, no history of violence, and played minor roles in tracking operations.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa backed October bill proposing to cut nonviolent drug offenders’ sentences. “With almost half of the 195,809 federally sentenced individuals in the Bureau of Prisons serving time for drug trafficking offenses, it is critical to ask why. We have passed initial drug sentence legislation, but it really comes down to reducing mandatory minimum penalties and granting judges greater discretion for drug offenses,” Grassley said.

The legislation proposed next week will be grounded in analysis of the Task Force’s finding of the characteristics and sentencing lengths as correlated to prison population growth.

The Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections was developed by Congress in response to the decades of federal prison population growth, to create data-driven policy. Additional information pertaining to this research and data visualizations can be found here, as produced by Urban Institute.  

Study co-authors include Samuel Taxy and Cybele Kotonias, researchers at the Urban Institute.

This project was supported by grant no. 2014-ZR-BX-K001 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.


 Scarlet Neath

Communications Department





A Conversation With Cristina

Cristina Del Sesto (Georgetown University ’86) visits Spring Semester Digital News Students March 2 2016, discussing the upcoming National Gallery of Art’s 75th anniversary to facing rejection on the job to arguing with Jesuits at Georgetown.

“Determined, a wicked sense of humor, and a sly smile.” Alexander Prout (Georgetown University ’86) on classmate Cristina Del Sesto (Georgetown University ’86) pictured above on March 2 2016.

Most mornings for Cristina Del Sesto start off similar to students taking Digital News, beginning with reading the news. She describes her day as marked by rejection – something also familiar to the typical spring semester college student seeking summer employment.

It is here that paths differ. These days, Cristina, Deputy Corporate Relations at National Gallery of Art is preparing for the Gallery’s 75th Anniversary on March 17th.

Starting in 2012 at the Gallery, Cristina has spent half her time working to broker a deal with Faber-Castell USA, who this month decided to give $30,000 in art supplies to the National Gallery of Art. Supplies will allow for the installation of “Sketching is Seeing” anniversary program. According to the National Gallery of Art February 29 2016 Press Release, “This program is about how well you can draw; rather, visitors will be encouraged to think about sketching as a tool to explore the museum—to slow down, look carefully, and connect with works of art.”

While this deal fell through, she explains that most development work is a lot of rejection.

“I think what my task is to figure out which companies would make sense for them to sponsor at the National Gallery, and then I need to figure out how to get to the right person.” She explains that she starts the pitch process by developing “the story” and tracking down complementary partners.

While Cristina explains her typical process she lights up, comparing her work to investigative journalism. She continues, “I don’t take no very easily. It’s my personality type. You can learn a lot from rejection, maybe more than from something that comes very easily.”

Persistence in the face of rejection is actually how Cristina got her start. Ultimately it has proven to be a worthy companion throughout her career path as an invaluable asset from her start in the journalism industry to current position in the art world.

“If anyone were to look at my careers, it doesn’t make sense. But now looking back, I am where I started when I graduated from Georgetown. I wanted to work at the Washington Post and National Gallery of Art. There was a sort of randomness to it. I think if you have some sort of vision in your mind, you do hit it.”

Majoring in Art History and English at Georgetown, Cristina took the only journalism course her senior year. She recounts her father’s pressuring to find a job post-graduation as the point that led to the Washington Post, where Cristina’s path crossed with Digital News Professor Ann Oldenburg.

After a series of emails and phone calls with Ann to no job avail, someone quit. A week before graduation, Cristina joined the Washington Post staff on the night shift working until 2:30am when the last edition came out. “I remember there was always a lot of ink on the bottom of my sneakers. I was a runner, that’s how I started.”

From her start as a runner, Cristina has worked in a number of fields from co-authoring a book on international terrorism to Senior Editor launching Amazon’s music site to a consultant for PNC Bank. Perhaps this could be attributed to the “have to do more” mentality she gained at Georgetown, arguing with late Professor James Walsh S.J., and most notably, learning how to think.

As for looking forward past the Gallery’s 75th anniversary, Cristina acknowledges she still hasn’t managed to master the art of slowing down.

“I’m never comfortable in any place for very long. I miss the pace of journalism a lot. Non-profits are very, very slow. The for-profit world is more closely aligned with the pace of journalism.”