Sen. Jeff Brandes, a longtime proponent for prison reform, filed a bill Friday that would reduce sentences for some young adult offenders.
Brandes’ bill (SB 1308) would allow people convicted of crimes when they were 25 years old or younger to apply, in certain situations, for a sentence review to reduce their sentence or suspend it immediately.
“The Second Look Act” applies to most offenders except for those convicted of murder or conspiracy to commit murder or to those sentenced to life in prison.
The proposed law would allow individuals to be resentenced or released from prison if a court deems they are reasonably able to reenter society without posing a further risk of reoffending.
Under the law, the Department of Corrections must notify qualifying offenders in writing within 18-months of their eligibility for sentencing review or immediately for those eligible as of July 1, 2020, when the law would take effect.
Offenders seeking a sentence review must submit an application requesting a hearing with the original sentencing court in their case.
Offenders are entitled to an attorney as in any other criminal proceeding.
The sentencing review would consider a variety of factors in determining whether to shorten an offender’s sentence. That includes the offender’s level of maturity and rehabilitation since the crime was committed, whether they still pose a threat to society, the opinion of the victim or the victim’s next of kin, whether the offender shows sincere remorse and several factors that might have contributed to the offender’s commission of the crime like mental health or trauma from physical, sexual or emotional abuse. The sentencing court would also consider whether the offender continued his or her education while in custody.
Victim statements in the re-sentencing process must be accepted in person, in writing or electronically. A victim’s lack of comment cannot be taken as a factor, rather previous statements made could be used in place of new statements.
If the court deems the offender has been rehabilitated and can successfully reenter society, the court may modify the sentence and impose a period of probation of at least five years for more severe crimes and at least three years for lesser crimes.
If a sentence modification is denied, the court must notify the offender in writing with the reasons why.
Brandes’ bill also includes a requirement to evaluate opportunities for reentering offenders to help with that transition. The Office of Program Policy and Governmental Accountability would be tasked with that study. It would include barriers to re-entry, consequences of reintegration, ways to reduce those consequences.