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June 22, 2019

"Judges should be able to take a 'second look' at prison sentencing"

The title of this post is the title of this recent USA Today op-ed authored by Kevin Sharp and Kevin Ring. Based on the title alone, regular readers should know I am keen on the ideas in this piece, and here are excerpts:

It’s time we took bold steps that would give most prisoners an incentive to work hard to change their lives and successfully reintegrate into society, making us all safer when they do. It’s time for Congress and state legislatures to adopt broad “second look” sentencing laws.

We have both worked with people who have taken extraordinary steps to rehabilitate themselves in prison. One of us is a former federal judge who resigned, in large part, because he could no longer stand to impose the excessive and unjust prison terms Congress mandates in so many cases. The other is a former prisoner and the leader of a national organization that works with thousands of families directly impacted by harsh federal and state sentencing laws.

We know that implementing second-look laws, which would allow judges to review every offender’s sentence after a certain period — say 10 or 15 years — could reform our criminal justice system in a way that would recognize the capacity for rehabilitation, ensure public safety and reduce excessive sentences.

Second-look laws would give any individual hoping for a second chance more than enough time to show that he or she has earned it. Knowing that an opportunity for resentencing exists would very likely improve morale and behavior inside prisons, benefiting prisoners and corrections officers alike.

There is nothing more frightening than living in an environment where there is no hope. Moreover, there is ample evidence to suggest that lengthier sentences do not make us safer, yet our country continues to impose some of the harshest prison terms in the Western world....

Although presidents and many governors have the authority to shorten excessive sentences and reward extraordinary rehabilitation, they rarely use it. Over the past 40 years, executives have been loath to take any risks with their political futures. We need to move beyond short-term fear and follow what we know to be true about human nature and people’s capacity to change. Enacting second-look laws would allow us to reduce the unnecessary harm we are causing to some of our fellow citizens and improve public safety for all of us.

Under second-look laws, public safety would be preserved by ensuring that prosecutors, probation officers and pretrial services, along with prison officials, are involved in any resentencing in order to make the court aware of a given individual’s rehabilitation, or lack thereof. It’s more likely that adopting second-look laws would make our communities safer and decrease the strain on our prison system by preventing us from wasting our limited anti-crime resources warehousing people who pose little or no safety risk.

If we want to safely reduce our nation’s prison population, we need to stop throwing people away and start recognizing the human capacity for rehabilitation and redemption. We need to commit to second chances, and we can start by promising to give everyone a second look.

A few of many, many prior related posts and related writings:

June 22, 2019 at 06:59 PM | Permalink


No one doubts the ability for criminal redemption and rehabilitation.

Nor does anyone doubt that

Within 5 years of release

about 70% of violent and property criminals have committed more crimes

and, overall, we only solve about 25% of crimes, so the recidivism rates are, very likely, higher.

There is zero doubt that we are giving the majority of "second chance" releasees a second, third, fourth or fifth chance to create more innocent victims.

Yes, we need prison reform, but what will be the level of carnage when we see what we know we will, that is how poorly managed this will be, with so many additional innocent victims, as we already know the realities of recidivism.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Jun 23, 2019 5:32:00 AM

Great--Thank you so much for the perfect Post you share!! I

Posted by: legaladvertiserjaipur | Jun 28, 2019 5:58:08 AM

Most people doubt the ability for criminal redemption, that is why we have the highest population of prisoners in the world. The WORLD!

Most of us make mistakes and seek forgiveness for what we have done, but when others do it when show no mercy.

Most don't comprehend that a high number of "violent" labeled prisoners have not committed a violent crime, they could be accessories without even being at the crime or a part of the crime.

Judges in certain states have no other choice but to sentence individuals (human beings) to lengthy sentences because the laws in their residing states call for it. Now understand the laws in those states are so ancient and need change. Most judges have their hands tied, but I am grateful for individuals who are stepping up and speaking out about the change that is needed. A second look is needed for both state and federal prisoners. There are those that deserve a chance to make things right. There are those with no previous criminal record and no disciplinary write ups while locked up. There are those who never hurt anyone, their friend might have but they did not. Some people end up in situations that they did not necessarily put themselves in.

Posted by: Ebony | Jul 15, 2019 3:35:41 PM

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