Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have introduced a bill that presents a new approach to legal reform by giving a “second look” to those behind bars.
The “Second Look Act” of 2019 would allow any individual who has served at least 10 years in federal prison to petition a court to take a “second look” at their sentence before a judge and determine whether they are eligible for a sentence reduction or release.
“Last year when the First Step Act was signed into law, we intended it to be just that — a first step. Now we begin our follow-up,” Bass said. “We’ve made progress in our efforts to reform our criminal justice system so that Americans today aren’t subjected to over-criminalization.
“Now we must make sure we support those sitting in prison due to draconian sentencing practices for crimes that don’t fit the punishment. Unjustifiably long prison sentences aren’t just immoral, but also a waste of valuable federal resources. I urge my colleagues in joining us to support this important piece of legislation.”
Booker said that while the “First Step Act” was a momentous achievement, more work needs to be done to address excessive prison sentencing.
“Our bill targets a harsh reality. There are hundreds of thousands of people behind bars—most of them people of color—who were sentenced under draconian laws during the height of the War on Drugs that we have since recognized were unfair,” Booker said. “But many of the changes we’ve made to these laws have not been retroactive. That means there are now an enormous number of people in prison who have served lengthy prison terms, are not a threat to the community, and are ready for re-entry, but are stuck under these outdated sentencing laws.
“Those policies don’t make us any safer, and waste resources that could be used to invest in our communities and our future, rather than serving to discard the marginalized and most vulnerable. Our bill recognizes this unfairness and gives people who have served their time a ‘second look.’”
The Second Look Act would:
•Enable individuals sentenced to more than 10 years imprisonment and who have served at least 10 years to petition a court to be released.
•Create a rebuttable presumption of release for petitioners who are 50 years of age or older on the date of the petition.
•Establish factors for courts to consider, including whether they demonstrate a readiness for reentry and are not a danger to the safety of any person or the community.
•Mandate the United States Sentencing Commission issue an annual public report detailing the effect of the provision, including the racial impact.