There have been few bipartisan laws at the federal level in recent years, but one that stands out has been to revamp the criminal legal system. This is in response to the tough-on-crime sentencing practices of the 1980s and 1990s, which incarcerated defendants for years even when they committed non-violent or drug-related crimes.
Progressive prosecutors are now finding ways to get these folks out of prison and back into their communities. It also is reflected in the growing number of state legislatures decriminalizing marijuana and eliminating the death penalty.
Another way to correct the ongoing harm created by these unjust practices is to develop resentencing units. According to prosecutors from Los Angeles and Baltimore, these units review, resentence and release those with unjustly severe sentences. Nearby examples include units set up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Baltimore.
Health is currently a significant concern in 2020 with the pandemic raging in prisons and penitentiaries among the inmates and staff – those incarcerated are five-times more likely to contract the virus and three-times more likely to die from it than people on the outside. These units are looking at identifying inmates with medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable.
The units will also identify inmates serving life, life without parole or third strike sentences, particularly those who are older or demonstrate they are rehabilitated. Another target will be minors sentenced as an adult.
Rehabilitation is the key
These old sentencing practices decimated many minority communities. This and other reasons have even led two of every three victims of violent crimes to call for a change in sentencing and correct past wrongs in the name of safety and justice for all.
An essential part of the movement is to change sentencing guidelines. Rather than focus on the punishment that leads to incarceration, the prosecutors pledge to do more rehabilitation. The goal is to rehabilitate those unjustly punished, but these resentencing units are, in the broader sense, rehabilitating the criminal law system.