- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2020

In its last legislative session of the year, the D.C. Council passed legislation to allow some violent felons to seek early release, despite pushback from the mayor and Metropolitan Police.

The Second Amendment Look Act now goes to Mayor Muriel Bowser for approval, but the 12-1 council vote means the bill is veto-proof. The sole opposer was outgoing council member Brandon Todd, Ward 4 Democrat.

Congress, which has oversight of D.C. laws, must give it final approval.

The measure was introduced last year by council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. It expands the age limit of the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act, which the council enacted in 2016.

To qualify for early release, an inmate must have committed the crime before the age of 25, up from age 18, and have already served 15 years in prison.

Council member Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, suggested two amendments that were rejected by her fellow lawmakers. One would have required a judge to consider the underlying nature of the crime; the other would have given substantial consideration to the victim or family, not just the victim impact statement.

The legislation has been met with criticism from prosecutors, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), its union and the Democratic mayor.

Miss Bowser said Monday during a press briefing that she has “regret that it doesn’t raise up the victims voices as expressly as it could have, as was suggested by council member Cheh.”

“I think there’s a lot of things being done at the end of the council period as it relates to public safety that will warrant our continued attention to see if they are measures that are going to make our city safer,” Miss Bowser said.

Outgoing police Chief Peter Newsham said during the briefing that some of the victims he has spoken with about the bill are “unaware that this is even going on.”

“I can disagree, respectfully disagree, with the passage of this legislation, and I think I will continue to disagree with it,” Chief Newsham said. “But at the end of the day, as a law enforcement officer in the District of Columbia, I’ll have to abide by it.”

The FAMM Foundation, which is dedicated to criminal justice reform, has been a staunch supporter of the bill and praised the council’s decision in a press release Tuesday.

“This new law will not let everyone out of prison, but it will stop us from throwing everyone away,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring. “No one is safer when people who pose no risk to the public remain in prison. In order to reduce unnecessary incarceration, reunite families, and give people second chances, we have to revisit extreme sentences.”

About 300 felons are likely eligible, Mr. Allen said recently, according to an article in The Washington Post. The legislation reportedly would require those who apply to provide proof of rehabilitation, show that they are not threats to society, and have no major offenses on their prison records.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, lawmakers passed a measure that would ban D.C. agencies from cooperating with immigration officials without a federal warrant and outlaw detention centers for immigrants.

The council also approved bills to create a civilian police complaint board and extend the mayor’s public health emergency.

Miss Bowser’s signature will be needed for final approval of the legislation.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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