- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A unanimous D.C. Council has given initial approval to a bill that would allow hundreds of violent felons to be released early from prison, a measure strongly opposed by the Metropolitan Police Department.

The Second Look Amendment Act would permit felons convicted of violent crime before age 25 to file petitions for early release once they have served 15 years in prison. The legislation, approved Tuesday, would amend the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act passed by the council in 2016 by expanding the age limit from younger than 18 to 25 years old.

Council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, introduced the amendment last year. The police department and its union have criticized the proposal.

About 300 felons are likely eligible, Mr. Allen recently said, according an article in The Washington Post. The legislation reportedly would mandate those who apply to provide proof of rehabilitation, show that they are not threats to society, and require that they do not have any major offenses on their prison records.

D.C. police have excoriated Mr. Allen and his legislation.

“Gun-related crime has increased dramatically in D.C.,” the Metropolitan Police Department tweeted last month. “Councilmember Allen is pushing for legislation that will provide for the early release of hundreds of violent gun offenders. This impact on victims and our community can’t be overlooked.”

The D.C. Police Union chimed in with a tweet that said, “Seems like people are starting to realize that [Mr. Allen] and his small-minded policies have resulted in more murders and more crime.”

Mr. Allen fired back with a tweet saying the police department should “[s]top fear mongering. Of those the Court resentenced after decades of [jail time], *0* have re-offended. No link to [today’s] gun violence.”

As of Nov. 27, the police department’s year-to-date data shows a 62% increase in the number of gunshot wound victims, 849, from 524 in 2017. The data includes victims shot during homicides, assaults with a dangerous weapon and robberies.

Jessie K. Liu, the District’s U.S. attorney at the time, said in an August 2019 press release that if the bill becomes law, then 583 “violent criminals” would be eligible for release. Bureau of Prisons data suggests that “one in three will reoffend within three years of release.”

“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,” Ms. Liu said.

The U.S. attorney’s office prosecutes most criminal cases in the District, whose felons serve time in federal prisons.

A few days after the U.S. attorney issued the press release, Mr. Allen and D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine co-wrote an opinion article in The Washington Post arguing that Ms. Liu’s “fears are overblown and unfounded.”

They said the incarceration rate in the District is “higher than any state” worldwide and is largely the result of “a period of excessive mandatory-minium sentencing guidelines, which disproportionately targeted people of color.”

Of the 18 people released since the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act went into effect in 2017, none reoffended, the officials said.

The Notre Dame Law Review published an article in May that mentions the D.C. legislation and states that relative data “rates signify that such policies, aimed at releasing people who offend in their youths and who have already served many years, pose minimal risk to public safety.”

Data analysis of a sample of more than 23,000 people reportedly showed those ages 18 to 24 who initially were incarcerated for murder or non-negligent manslaughter and were released at ages 35 to 44 were reincarcerated for the same crime at a rate of 0.69%. The rate is 0.65% for those released at ages 45 to 54, and zero individuals 55 and older reoffended after release.

“Analysis suggests that people convicted of violent crimes who have already been imprisoned a long time are at low risk of committing another violent offense, regardless of admission age (and older releasees tend to recidivate less frequently),” the article states.

Also at Tuesday’s penultimate legislative meeting for the year, council members initially passed bills that would require businesses to accept cash payments for goods and services and would allow more tax fraud lawsuits to be filed against companies by their own employees.

The council is set to cast final votes on the bills on Dec. 15. If passed, they would head to Mayor Muriel Bowser for final approval.

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