We must COMPLETELY RE-THINK federal sentencing law:
Thousands of people in federal prison are serving severe, outdated sentences that Congress no longer believes are fair. A 2022 Supreme Court decision that seemed to broaden the availability of reduced prison time has been interpreted inconsistently, extending uncertainty on this issue. In the short term, carefully crafted rules can allow judges to offer relief on a case-by-case basis. But ultimately, ending unjust penalties will require a top-to-bottom rethinking of federal sentencing law.
Congress must pass the “SECOND LOOK” legislation to reduce some sentences:
A man who had been sentenced to life without parole told U.S. Senator Booker that he had grown and changed and that I deserved to be home. He said many people in prison deserve a second chance, and often, they were unjustly sentenced to begin with. Later Senator Booker and Congresswoman Bass first introduced the Second Look Act in 2019, inspired, in part, by that meeting. Now these two members of Congress have reintroduced the Second Look Act. A previous reform had allowed this federal prisoner to become free. Now he works for profound justice for other people.
The Second Look Act is ambitious and groundbreaking. It would allow people who have served at least 10 years in federal prison to petition a court to take a “second look” at their sentence and assess their rehabilitation and whether their continued incarceration serves the interests of justice. It would create a rebuttable presumption of release for people who are 50 years of age or older, meaning the burden shifts to the government to demonstrate why that person should remain behind bars.
Extreme sentences also come with a profound human cost as people spend decades in cruel conditions, separated from their loved ones. And the research is clear: as people grow and mature, they typically stop engaging in crime. There are many reasons for this, but lengthy sentences aren’t one of them. They 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. Instead, we should be funding things that make communities safer.
Solitary confinement is actually torture. Here are info and a link to federal legislation:
In mid-July 2022, twenty-nine national religious organizations sent this letter to Members of the House of Representatives calling on them to co-sponsor H.R. 8048, the Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act. NRCAT’s press release about this strong showing of interfaith support for the legislation is available here for sharing. A PDF of the national interfaith letter is available here to download, print, and share.
The Act would create a bipartisan commission to study the effects of solitary confinement in the U.S. prison system at the federal, state, and local levels, and set national standards. The commission would be charged with making recommendations that would end long-term solitary confinement in federal prisons and detention centers and bring the systems into compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules. The legislation also sets aside federal grant funding as an incentive to states that are taking steps to end solitary confinement. Notably, the membership of the proposed commission must consist of at least three formerly incarcerated people or family members of incarcerated people.
NRCAT and our allies in the Federal Anti-Solitary Taskforce (FAST) are working closely with original co-sponsors Rep. Trone (D-MD) and Rep. Bice (R-OK) in support of this legislation as an important step toward our ultimate goal of ending the torture of isolated confinement once and for all. Your continued support is needed to build strong bipartisan co-sponsorship for this important bill.
This was in the previous Congress. In January 2023 the new Congress was installed. I hope the bill will be re-introduced in 2023. If it is, the bill number might change.