Second Chances Resource Library

The Second Chances Resource Library contains resources related to expanding release opportunities
for people in prison who are serving long sentences or have other circumstances warranting release

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Found 317 resources
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PDF The Second Look Law Movement: A Review of the Nation’s Sentence Review Laws

Organization/Publisher:The Sentencing Project
Author:Becky Feldman

This report presents the evolution of the second look movement, which started with ensuring compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Graham v. Florida (2010) and Miller v. Alabama (2012) on the constitutionality of juvenile life without parole (“JLWOP”) sentences.12 This reform has more recently expanded to other types of sentences and populations, such as other excessive sentences imposed on youth, and emerging adults sentenced to life without parole (“LWOP”). Currently, legislatures in 12 states,13 the District of Columbia, and the federal government have enacted a second look judicial review beyond opportunities provided to those with JLWOP sentences, and courts in at least 15 states determined that other lengthy sentences such as LWOP or term-of-years sentences were unconstitutional under Graham or Miller.

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PDF Unusual & Unequal: The Unfinished Business of Ending Life Without Parole for Children in the United States

Organization/Publisher:Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY)

The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY) is proud to release Unusual & Unequal: The Unfinished Business of Ending Life Without Parole for Children in the United States, a new report revealing alarming statistics about the continued imposition of juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) in the United States.

The imposition of juvenile life without parole is becoming increasingly unusual nationally, and it is applied in increasingly arbitrary and unequal ways. For over 12 years, hundreds of individuals serving JLWOP have not received a second look at their sentences despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama mandating new sentencing considerations for youth. These individuals now make up two-thirds of the total JLWOP population, and as they await resentencing, racial disparities have worsened. Of all people sentenced to JLWOP since 2012, 77% are Black – up from 61% pre-Miller.

“The increasingly arbitrary imposition of JLWOP undermines the constitutionality of sentencing any child to life without parole and should compel states to categorically ban the sentence,” says Rebecca Turner, Associate Legal Director at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.  As of today, JLWOP remains a sentencing option in 22 states.

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PDF Mass Incarceration, Violent Crimes, and Lengthy Sentences: Using the Race-Class Narrative as a Messaging Framework For Shortening Prison Sentences

Organization/Publisher:St. Mary's Law Journal
Author:Eric Petterson

The criminal legal system needs many reforms, but this Article will focus on capping maximum prison sentences at twenty years for adult offenders, at fifteen years for people up to age twenty-five, and shifting sentences for all other offenses proportionately downward.

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PDF Worthless Checks? Clemency, Compassionate Release, and the Finality of Life Without Parole

Organization/Publisher:Northwestern University Law Review
Author:Daniel Pascoe

Life without parole (LWOP) sentences are politically popular in the United States because, on their face, they claim to hold prisoners incarcerated until they die, with zero prospect of release via the regularized channel of parole. However, this view is procedurally shortsighted. After parole there is generally another remedial option for lessening or abrogating punishment: executive clemency via pardons and commutations. Increasingly, U.S. legal jurisdictions also provide for the possibility of compassionate release for lifers, usually granted by a parole board.

On paper, pardon, commutation, and compassionate release are thus direct challenges to the claim that an LWOP sentence will inevitably and invariably lead to the prisoner’s death while incarcerated. Few previous studies, however, have examined the finality of LWOP empirically. In this Article, I present original empirical data on clemency covering the period 1990–2021 in order to investigate the relationship between LWOP sentences and the release mechanisms of executive clemency and compassionate release in both state and federal cases.

Ultimately, the results of this research reaffirm the finality of LWOP in the United States, despite the availability, on paper, of at least three potential release procedures. Only a handful of LWOP prisoners have received commutation or pardon from U.S. presidents, state governors, or pardons boards. Compassionate release has been granted almost as rarely. That said, some demographics tend to have benefited more than others. The findings presented within this Article are relevant not only to domestic clemency and end-of-life release policy but also to litigation dealing with a “right to hope” as a component of human dignity, and to the academic debate over LWOP as a global replacement for the death penalty and a form of “extreme” punishment of its own accord.

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PDF Between Cooperation and Conflict in Second Look Sentence Review

Organization/Publisher:Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution
Author:Kay L. Levine and Ronald F. Wright

In this article, we offer the first scholarly assessment of a new practice emerging in many state criminal courts: prosecutor-initiated second look sentencing, also called resentencing. Attorneys working on resentencing matters consider the continuing integrity of a sentence imposed on a defendant years (or even decades) earlier, with an eye toward revising its terms. They assess numerous factors, such as whether the defendant still presents a public safety risk, whether the defendant has taken advantage of prison programming, and whether the original sentence now appears disproportionate due to a shift in community values. Second look sentencing thus offers great promise as a means to correct for the punishment excesses of the past.

But as we recount from our original interviews, there are some cracks beneath the surface. The defense and prosecutor roles in resentencing start from a structural power asymmetry that could weaken the spirit of cooperation that characterizes the early days of the practice. There are gaps (both real and perceived) between the lofty aspirations of prosecutorial rhetoric at the time of adoption and the more limited reality that emerges when prosecutors start making case-level decisions, subject to resource and political limits. Faced with this frustrating disconnect, some defenders return to their traditional adversarial role and refuse to enable or endorse what they see as programmatic failure. Left unchecked, these implementation roadblocks, combined with resource limits and political constraints, could delay the spread and blunt the effects of this innovative device.

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PDF SENTENCE MODIFICATION IN CONNECTICUT: A Guide for Those Navigating the §53a-39 Process

Organization/Publisher:The Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization
Author:Jammie Walker

This guide details Connecticut’s 53a-39 sentence modification process, and includes information on gathering and organizing the materials necessary to create the most compelling petition possible. It outlines the ways in which supporters can be most helpful to a person seeking a sentence modification and provides the information, templates, and official forms necessary to navigate the sentence modification process.

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LINK Clemency and Compassionate Release: Resources by State

Organization/Publisher:FAMM

This webpage has resources explaining how compassionate release and clemency work in each state.

FAMM’s Compassionate Release Report Cards look at how well states provide compassionate release to medically vulnerable, aging, and terminally ill incarcerated people. They grade each state program on key measures such as eligibility criteria, procedures, release planning, and data collection/public reporting. Unfortunately, the majority of states flunk compassionate release. In addition to the report cards, the webpage includes accompanying memos that provide detailed information on each state’s compassionate release programs.

The webpage also has links to clemency resources for each state, which include information on eligibility criteria, the application process, and more.

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PDF Like They’re Waiting for you to Die: Development of the Inadequate Medical Care Doctrine from District Court to United States Sentencing Commission

Organization/Publisher:Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law
Author:Shanna H. Rifkin & Elizabeth A. Blackwood

This article will explore the development of the inadequacy of medical care doctrine, from one judge’s decision to the Sentencing Commission including this factor as an enumerated ground for compassionate release in the sentencing guidelines. It will set the stage by reviewing the BOP’s history of inadequate medical care and history of neglecting compassionate release requests. This failure on the part of BOP led to the dramatic changes in the First Step Act which opened the door
for more compassionate release litigation. The article will then discuss how COVID changed everything and taught judges about the use of compassionate release as a lifeline for medically vulnerable people. It will then present and analyze some recent litigation that has raised issues of inadequate medical care. Finally, the article will end in the present—reflecting on the current, 2023, sentencing guidelines which include a ground for compassionate release based on inadequate medical care.

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