Washington, DC – A new bill could make over 500 violent criminals eligible for early release from prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
The D.C. Council is considering a measure that would expand the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA) of 2016, which currently allows for violent offenders who committed their offenses as juveniles to apply for early release after they have served 15 years of their original sentence, WUSA reported.
Proponents of the measure, dubbed the “Second Look Act,” want to see the same opportunities offered to adult violent offenders.
Under the proposed bill, all violent offenders who committed their offenses prior to the age of 25 would be “immediately eligible to apply for release” after they have served only 15 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said in a press release.
The opportunity would be extended to all violent offenders who fit those parameters – including murderers and rapists – regardless of the sentence that was originally handed down, the prosecutor’s office noted.
The court would need to determine that the offender “is not a danger to the community or to any person, despite the ‘brutality or coldblooded’ nature of the offense,’” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the release.
As of Aug. 9, over 70 defendants had either filed motions seeking sentence reductions or were in the process of doing so, according to the prosecutor’s office.
“To date, approximately 17 motions have been ruled on and only one petition has been denied,” the release noted. “Of the 16 motions granted, 12 cases involved murders, two cases involved rapes, one case involved armed robbery, and one case involved armed kidnapping.”
Under the proposed expansion of the IRAA, 538 violent offenders would be eligible to apply for immediate release.
“Bureau of Prisons Data suggests that…one in three will reoffend within three years of release,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The law change “is not evidence-based,” and does nothing to protect victims, the release read.
The proposed legislation also “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,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
The rights of victims and their families are being given a backseat to the ever-expanding opportunities being afforded to violent criminals.
“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,” the prosecutor’s office railed. “[The] Second Look Amendment Re-Victimizes Victims and Ignores Public Safety in the District.”
U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu urged the D.C. Council to continue to gather data about the offenders who have already been released under the IRAA as opposed to “hastily” pushing the expansion through.
“Our communities are safer when we do a better job of rehabilitating offenders in our custody,” Liu said. “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,” she added. “The proposed legislation misses the mark.”
But Justice Policy Institute Executive Director Marc Schindler argued that violent offenders under the age of 25 should have the opportunity to serve only a fraction of their sentences because their brains weren’t fully developed when they committed the acts that landed them in prison, WUSA reported.
“Young people aren't fully developed all the way until their mid-twenties so we know from brain science from adolescent development research that young people are still developing and so this recognizes that," Schindler said.
Joshua Rovner, an advocate with The Sentencing Project, claimed that most violent offenders will eventually just grow out of their violent criminal behaviors.
"It's important to realize that people generally age out of crime," Rovner told WUSA. "What we're understanding about offending is that it drops precipitously following adolescence. Many people think of adolescence ending at age 18 but nothing really magical happens at age 18...the evidence of brain science really shows adolescence ends at about one's mid-20s."
Approximately 18 percent of the city’s convicted murderers were 23 or 24 years old when they killed their victims, WUSA reported.
Twenty-three percent of offenders convicted of manslaughter committed their offenses when they were between the ages of 19 and 23.
"We’re talking about individuals who were convicted of very serious violent offenses," Liu told WUSA. "So, murder, sexual assault and sexual assault of children...in the current climate I’m very concerned about that."