Sophia M. Adams


“Second look” sentencing laws allow incarcerated individuals to petition to have their sentences reexamined and potentially reduced after they have served a significant period of incarceration. This rehabilitative relief is conditioned upon an offender showing that they have made meaningful positive changes while incarcerated and would not pose a threat to their community if released. Implementing second look laws is particularly appropriate in the context of offenders who have committed crimes as juveniles. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that juvenile offenders are less culpable than their adult counterparts and psychological science supports this conclusion. This Comment examines and compares recent second look laws from Washington, D.C., Oregon, California, Delaware, and Florida and suggests that a federal second look law could serve as a model for states to adopt. An ideal federal law would: (1) extend eligibility to all individuals who committed a crime under the age of 25; (2) require an offender to serve 10 years of incarceration before becoming eligible for review; (3) provide opportunities for re-application every 5 to 10 years and allow at least 2 applications; (4) include a list of factors for the court to consider when making its resentencing decision; (5) require that the state give notice of the second look policy to offenders before they become eligible; and (6) guarantee a right to counsel for indigent individuals.



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