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Vanita Gupta
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Vanita Gupta is Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. She is also Director of the organization’s newly-formed Center for Justice, which addresses systemic problems in the U.S. criminal justice system, including the treatment of prisoners, the death penalty, and the policies of over-incarceration that have led the United States to imprison more people than any other country in the world. 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, where she won a landmark settlement on behalf of immigrant children detained in a converted medium security, privately-run prison in Texas. 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 defendants 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.


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. She has served as a consultant for the Open Society Institute on various international human rights projects in Central Europe and Africa. She serves on the board of OSI Roma Initiatives and Working Films, Inc., as well as on the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch US Programs.


Vanita is a graduate of Yale University and New York University School of Law.

Entries by Vanita Gupta

Extreme Sentencing -- the 'New Normal?'

(46) Comments | Posted November 15, 2013 | 3:19 PM

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...

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

(78) Comments | Posted May 16, 2013 | 3:37 PM

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

After 30 years, CCA should be ashamed.

For 30 years, CCA's profits have grown because more people are behind bars. For CCA, the fact that America incarcerates more people than any other nation in the...

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Too Many Still Wait to Hear Gideon's Trumpet

(1) Comments | Posted March 18, 2013 | 12:26 PM

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 from a pool hall in Panama City, Florida. Mr. Gideon's appeal of his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, written in...

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Most Important Discussion You Probably Missed: Candidates Address Key Civil Liberties Issues

(4) Comments | Posted October 25, 2012 | 4:55 PM

Illuminated by stage lights, the presidential candidate with the red tie at the podium earlier this week made the following impassioned demand: "Let's end the drug wars! Legalize marijuana now!" The crowd cheered wildly. Further down the stage, his opponent one-upped his plea: "We don't just need to legalize marijuana,...

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It's Time to Discuss Criminal Justice Reform

(59) Comments | Posted September 4, 2012 | 9:34 AM

By Vanita Gupta and Ezekiel Edwards

Presidential election season is prime time for predictions. One sure bet is this: neither candidate is likely to make criminal justice a stump issue. But another sure bet -- the candidates' laser focus on the economy -- should make a discussion of criminal justice...

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A Way Toward Balancing Government Budgets While Promoting Justice: Break Our Addiction to Incarceration

(7) Comments | Posted August 9, 2011 | 2:02 PM

By Inimai Chettiar, Policy Counsel, and Vanita Gupta, Deputy Legal Director, ACLU

There isn’t an American who hasn’t felt the devastating effects of the Great Recession. And just when most of us thought it couldn’t get any worse, the S&P downgrade of the federal government’s Treasury...

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From Incredible to Inevitable: How the Politics of Criminal Justice Reform May Be Shifting

(11) Comments | Posted August 4, 2010 | 5:00 PM

Yesterday, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act into law. Though this new law retains an unjustifiable federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses, it is a remarkable criminal justice reform measure. Ten years ago, advocates working to repeal the notorious 100-to-1 sentencing disparity were thought...

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End Policing for Profit

(15) Comments | Posted April 12, 2010 | 4:36 PM

Imagine a police officer pulls you over and tells you he believes the cash you're carrying was used to in some illegal activity and--based only on that hunch--he is going to take it from you without charging you with a crime. Impossible, you think? Welcome to the down-is-up and black-is-white...

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