By Leslie Acevedo and Perla Brito
WASHINGTON DC – The Sentencing Project applauded federal legislation introduced last week by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) that would allow possible shortening of sentences of long-term incarcerated people in federal prison.
The Second Look Act of 2022 would allow individuals who have served at least 10 years in federal prison to petition a court to take a “second look” at their sentence, supported by research “[showing] as people grow and mature, they typically age out of crime.”
Amy Fetttig, an Executive Director of the Sentencing Project, supported the measure as a remedy to mass incarceration, stating, “Extreme sentences produce diminishing returns on public safety and waste scarce public resources on keeping people in prison long past the time when they pose a risk to the community.”
The bill’s authors argue the legislation has the potential to dramatically decrease the federal prison population that currently has about 160,000 people incarcerated, a growth from 25,000 imprisoned people in 1980. The population includes “[many] elderly, and medically vulnerable individuals, who have aged out of crime and pose little threat to the community.”
Senator Booker said, “Thousands of people, most of them people of color, are behind bars due to the draconian laws enacted during the height of the failed War on Drugs.”
He added, “Many of these individuals have served lengthy prison terms, are not a threat to the community, and are ready for re-entry, but they are stuck under these archaic sentencing laws. These policies don’t make us any safer and waste valuable federal resources that could be used to invest in our communities and our future.”
William “Bill” Underwood, Senior Fellow for the Campaign to End Life Imprisonment as The Sentencing Project, said “I was fortunate to receive compassionate release.”
Underwood noted the judge gave him a second chance after he served 33 years of his life without parole, noting he created a “culture of responsibility” during his sentence in prison. Underwood acknowledged he is not “unique” and there are thousands of men and women in prison much older than him who should also be given the opportunity to return to their loved ones.
The Sentencing Project in 2021 released “A Second Look at Injustice,” a report showing successful initiatives to scale back extreme sentences.