Is Second-Chance Law Making DC Streets More Dangerous?
Everyone deserves a second chance -- or do they? The new law in Washington, DC is giving judges the opportunity to grant young adults who have committed rape, robbery, or even murder a second chance at returning to society. Since many believe that crimes committed in childhood shouldn’t carry the same punishment as their adult counterparts, the thought of giving younger offenders a second chance to reform their lives was optimistic, hopeful to overhaul the system.
The original idea behind the second-chance law was that criminal offenders under the age of 22 have the potential to be rehabilitated. The Youth Rehabilitation Act gives judges, the tools to impose lesser sentences and to shed a person's criminal past once they serve their time. Removing the stigma of having a criminal record could give an offender the opportunity to start their life over again with the same advantages of those who don’t have a criminal past.
However, the Act may not be doing the good that it was intended to. Statistics released show that there appears to be a pattern of violent offenders being given a second chance who are returning to the streets and are committing more crimes. In fact, hundreds of those given the special allowance have gone on to commit multiple acts of violence.
DC judges have been allowed to hand down lesser sentences than the mandatory ones for younger offenders. The mandatory sentencing laws were created to deter violent crimes and robberies. The problem is that the leniency given has not been repaid by young criminals being released and finding a new lease on life. In most instances, they have returned to the very behaviors that led them to the law in the first place.
In 2013, a man entered the home of a Northeast Washington family, ransacked the house, held the family at gunpoint and stole from them. The young man, Shareem Hall, was released on probation in early 2015. Just one year later, Hall was implicated in the shooting of a transgender woman during a robbery. Although it is unclear through police records whether he was the one who pulled the gun or not, there was no doubt he was involved and was targeting transgender females.
Hall is just one of the 121 defendants who have benefited from the Youth Act and has gone on to be charged with murder after being given a second chance. Furthermore, the murders were perpetrated when these young men would have still been behind bars -- if not due to the leniency that they were granted under the Youth Act.
Since most of them would have been sentenced to the mandatory 30 years in prison, if they didnt find a Milton Criminal Lawyer, they would not have had the opportunity to return to the streets and leave the carnage that they did. 30 of the murders were committed while the defendants were still on probation, which means that it was soon after release that they went back to their former lifestyles.
The Youth Act targets at least one in five suspects who are convicted of homicide in the DC area. That has had the public seeing an increase in overall homicides, which is leaving many worried about the potential of repeat offenders and violence.
The biggest limitation of the Act is that judges aren’t given the background, necessary to determine whether it is appropriate to apply it to the defendants standing in front of them in court. The second-chance law gives an unfair advantage to violent criminals in DC like nowhere else in the US.
The second-chance law turns over judicial judgment to determine if a defendant is capable of rehabilitation when there is really no way of knowing. It also allows convicted criminals to have their prior conduct expunged. That means judges don’t hear about their criminal pasts, which makes it even tougher to predict what they will do in the future.
The reason for the Act was that many young men were being incarcerated for drug charges. The second-chance law was an attempt to take away the prejudice that can come with a criminal conviction that lasts for a lifetime. It was supposed to allow kids to grow up and be given a second chance, but that is not what the statistics are showing.
To keep violent offenders off of the streets of Washington, a second look needs to be taken at the second-chance option. What its intention was and what the results are showing aren't consistent. It may be putting dangerous criminals back on the streets and jeopardizing Washington residents’ safety.