Providing Second Chances: Criminal Justice Leaders Call for Sentencing Review and Clean Slate Policies

Today, the United States has more people serving life sentences than the total number of individuals who were incarcerated in 1970. This figure is alarming and puts in perspective the United States’ world-leading incarceration rates.

In early April, 64 criminal justice leaders joined together in a statement urging elected prosecutors and policymakers to embrace reforms designed to provide second chances for the numerous individuals in our country who pose virtually no risk to public safety yet are serving decades-long sentences. Concrete steps must be taken to end mass incarceration, including implementing sentencing review units and processes in elected prosecutors’ offices, expanding use of compassionate release, and requiring high-level approval before prosecutors recommend extreme sentences.

“Prosecutors and law enforcement leaders have all been elected or sworn to pursue justice in their communities. Daily, they endeavor to do so in all cases they handle. But they cannot fulfill this mandate without the capacity to also address extreme and disproportionate sentences that were sought and imposed in past decades, but are now recognized as excessive and counterproductive to public safety.”

– Joint Statement on Sentencing Second Chances

In this op-ed in The Crime Report, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, FAMM President Kevin Ring, and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss why policymakers must enact these critical reforms and offer second chances to those serving extreme sentences.

And we must also recognize the ongoing impact of a criminal record long after people are released from jail and prison. Today, around one in every three Americans has a criminal record, leading to challenges in obtaining housing, public assistance, and education. That’s why over 80 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders issued a joint statement urging policymakers to expand clean slate initiatives that automatically expunge and seal criminal records.

The statement emphasizes that those with previous involvement with the criminal legal system and their families deserve the opportunity to move forward without being constrained by the extreme burdens resulting from past mistakes.

“We must end our nation’s obsession with punishment and chart a new path forward focused on rehabilitation. Clean slate initiatives are essential to this vision of justice. We owe it to the millions of Americans with criminal records to take action now.”

– Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings

For more on FPJ’s work around second chances, visit our website.

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