New Bill Seeks to Make Over 500 Violent Criminals (Including Many Rapists and Murderers) Immediately Eligible for Early Release
Second Look Amendment Re-Victimizes Victims and Ignores Public Safety in the District
WASHINGTON –The Second Look Act of 2019, which is pending before the Council of the District of Columbia, will give violent criminals (including rapists and murderers) an opportunity to reduce their sentences after only serving 15 years in prison and will expand eligibility to adults who committed their crimes before they turned 25-years-old. Approximately 583 violent criminals will be immediately eligible to apply for release.
On March 26, 2019, Councilmember Charles Allen, Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, held a public hearing to consider Bill 23-0127, the “Second Look Amendment Act of 2019.” If passed, the proposed legislation will expand eligibility to adult offenders who committed violent offenses between the ages of 18 to 24-years-old. The proposed legislation will also allow a defendant to be released after serving only 15 years in prison, regardless of the original sentence imposed, if the court determines that the defendant is not a danger to the community or to any person, despite the “brutality or coldblooded” nature of the offense.
This proposed legislation is the third iteration of the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA). The first version was passed on April 4, 2017. It provided an avenue for sentence reduction consideration for 16 and17-year-olds tried and convicted as adults who served 20 years of their original sentence and had not yet become eligible for parole. The second version, passed May 10, 2019, shortened the number of years a defendant must serve from 20 to 15, allowed them to apply even if parole had been denied, and removed “the nature of the offense” from the factors that a judge must consider.
More than 70 defendants have filed motions for sentence reduction or are in the process of doing so. To date, approximately 17 motions have been ruled on and only one petition has been denied. Of the 16 motions granted, 12 cases involved murders, two cases involved rapes, one case involved armed robbery, and one case involved armed kidnapping. Bureau of Prisons data suggests that of the 583 eligible criminals who could apply for early release under the proposed Amendment, one in three will reoffend within three years of release.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office thoroughly reviews each motion and evaluates the defendant’s request for a sentence reduction knowing that this request will affect the victim, the victim’s family, and the community. Our role in this litigation is broad and we consider a range of interests, which includes the victim, the victim’s surviving family, the community at large, and the defendant.
The IRAA in its current form, which now eliminates the nature of offense from the judge’s consideration, strips victims of their sense of finality, and upends decades of local and national efforts to ensure truth in sentencing. The proposed legislation ignores how painful this process is for victims and will drastically increase the number of victims who must be re-traumatized by expanding the age of eligible defendants.
“Our communities are safer when we do a better job of rehabilitating offenders in our custody,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu. “The Council should not hastily pass this legislation but should instead gather data about how defendants released under the current version of the IRAA fare over time. The victims of these crimes and the community at large should not be jeopardized by the Council’s rush to expand the IRAA. The proposed legislation misses the mark.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is a national leader in criminal rehabilitation for non-violent offenders, and has nine diversion programs including one focused on restorative justice. These programs are geared towards rehabilitation.
The proposed legislation before the D.C. Council, helps violent offenders, with little or no benefit to non-violent offenders, and is unlike other criminal justice reform initiatives nationwide, including the federal First Step Act. This proposed legislation is not evidence-based, does little to protect the rights of victims and comes at a time when the homicide rate in the District has increased significantly.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to sensible criminal justice reforms that protect the rights of victims, ensure the safety of the community, and fairly consider the interests of defendants. Public Safety is our top concern.
For more information about the proposed changes, contact Councilmember Charles Allen at (202) 724-8072 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.