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Opinion: Biden Administration needs to Walk the Walk on Second Chances

USA Today: Erica Zunkel and James Zeigler - May 1, 2021

President Joe Biden declared April Second Chance Month, sending a strong signal to the tens of thousands of men and women serving extreme sentences in our federal prisons.

But talk is cheap, and while the administration’s rhetoric is promising, second chances remain few and far between in a federal criminal system where the Department of Justice continues to thwart the administration’s goals by opposing the release of individuals who are rehabilitated and do not pose a risk to the public. Making good on his commitment to criminal justice reform requires more than rhetoric. The Biden administration’s Department of Justice must change course.

The department’s intransigence is especially evident in Washington, D.C., where Justice policies have an outsized impact, and stand in stark contrast to laws passed by local officials.

Because Washington, D.C., is not a state, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia (overseen by the DOJ) handles prosecutions for violations of D.C. law. The District’s local government has passed laws to prioritize rehabilitation over punishment. The Second Look Amendment Act is a prime example. The legislation, which was enacted in January and became effective this week, allows people to seek early release who are serving lengthy sentences for crimes committed when they were under the age of 25.

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