DC passes bill allowing reduced sentences for young offenders

DC passes bill allowing reduced sentences for young offenders
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The D.C. Council on Tuesday passed a bill to allow young adults who committed crimes a chance to reduce their sentences.

The legislation will give judges the authority to reduce sentences if offenders were under 25 at the time of their crime, have served at least 15 years and are determined to deserve early release.

The New York Times notes in its report that this new legislation is reflective of a national debate over whether offenders in their teens and early 20s should receive the same considerations as older offenders.

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The bill will now go to D.C. Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserTwo shot outside of popular restaurants in DC, police still searching for suspects The Hill's Morning Report - Surging COVID-19 infections loom over US, Olympics DC mayor, Nationals issue joint statement against gun violence MORE to be signed, though Bowser has been critical of the bill in the past. The Times notes, however, that the council vote of 12-1 is enough to override a possible veto.

Notably, the bill does not exclude especially violent offenders, but many people convicted of murder and sex crimes could become eligible for reduced sentences.

Those against the bill have argued it would release violent individuals back onto the streets of D.C., while supporters say the bill falls in line with studies that have found the brain does not fully mature until later in life.

Another bill was previously passed by the D.C. Council that gave offenders who committed crimes before they were 18 and had served at least 20 years a chance to request a modification to their sentence. This new legislation essentially raises the age at which inmates are eligible to make their requests and reduces the amount of time they may have to serve.

The Times notes that the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders was unconstitutional. The court pointed to research that shows juvenile brains are not fully mature.

A similar debate occurred as the national outcry grew around the execution of Brandon Bernard, who was a teenager when he was sentenced to die. Many argued the punishment was too harsh for actions done when he was barely an adult.

Despite widespread objections, Bernard was executed by lethal injection on Dec. 10.