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2nd Chance Initiative

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     The Second Chance Initiative for First Term Offenders was inspired by and derived from California Senate Bill 260.  This initiative would give a second chance to offenders who were tried and sentenced to more than 10 years to adult prisons for their first time.  Also, it holds offenders responsible for the crime they committed.  This initiative recognizes that they are capable of redemption and provides them a chance to demonstrate maturity, accountability, and rehabilitation.  In addition, it provides the possibility of a reduced sentence.  The required minimum prison sentence varies from 8th, 15th, or 20th year.  The amount of the time they are required to complete depends on the length of their sentence.  The longer their sentences the more time they have to complete (i.e. an offender with a total sentence more than 25 years is required to complete a minimum of 20 years.  For more information please see proposal.).


     The Second Chance Initiative will establish a judicial review process for First Term Offenders with lengthy sentences. They can petition the sentencing court to review their case after serving the required minimum prison time.  In making a determination about whether to re-sentence an offender, the judge will consider the input of prosecutors, victims, and the offender’s pre and post-conviction history.  Also, the judge will consider whether the offender is rehabilitated or on a path to rehabilitation, and any other relevant evidence.  If the judge finds that a different sentence is merit, the judge may reduce, suspend, or stay all portions of the existing sentence.


     California needs a Second Chance Initiative, because it provides a viable solution to: (1) Alleviating prison overcrowding without jeopardizing public safety. (2) Promoting optimal rehabilitation. (3) Reducing prisons cost. (4) Securing public safety interests.  In addition, it works as an incentive for offenders to make positive change and work toward rehabilitation.


     First Term Offenders are individuals who are incarcerated in a state prison for the first time.  For the most part, they have no prior criminal record and have no habitual criminal behavior.


     Most First Term Offenders are different from Repeat Offenders in the following ways: many do not live a criminal lifestyle; many have readily turned their lives around; many do not have criminal tendencies.  Overall, other than the seriousness of their criminal offense, many First Term Offenders are people who made the worst choice at the worst time of their lives.


     On the Scale of Justice, should punishment be balanced with empathy, compassion, and mercy?  Aristotle said, "The virtue of justice consist in moderation, as regulated by wisdom."  However, today's mandatory sentencing law practice denies many First Term Offenders the meaningful chances to re-enter the community.  Therefore, we advocate an initiative providing First Term Offenders with lengthy sentences an opportunity to demonstrate maturity and rehabilitation to the court for re-sentencing under specified guidelines.  This proposed initiative is two-fold: First, it’s a viable measure that works to offset costly unproductive lengthy prison sentences.  Second, it raises four important questions of: Justice, Punishment, Rehabilitation, Humanity and five major effects.


     Is it justice to impose upon First Term Offenders a punishment that does not reflect the circumstances and degree of their culpability? For example: two people are convicted of the same crime, murder.  However, their circumstances are not similar.  One of the individuals convicted of murder, engaged in criminal behavior (incited fights on others) ended up killing another human being.  Conversely, the second individual was provoked (drawn into a fight) and ended up killing another human being.  

     In light of the law, both individuals are given equal sentences within the mandatory sentencing guidelines.  In situations such as these, should the punishment be proportionate to the degree of the offender's culpability? And, is it a miscarriage of justice to impose a punishment that is disproportionate to the circumstances and degree of the offenders' culpability?


     Is it excessive punishment to impose First Term Offenders with a lengthy sentence that exceeds their natural life expectancy? With today's mandatory sentencing laws, many First Term Offenders are given a lengthy sentence that they can not complete.  This is equivalent to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Moreover, should they be given an opportunity to show accountability, maturity, and rehabilitation in an effort to earn a second chance?


     Should First Term Offenders with a lengthy sentence be considered for parole based on their rehabilitation?  There are First Term Offenders who have served numerous years in prison.  Those offenders indicate that they are making serious efforts to redeem themselves.  Their records indicate that they do not pose a threat to public safety.However, they are not eligible for parole consideration because of the lengthy sentences they have to complete.  The Initiative proposes a meaningful period in their sentence where they can earn a second chance.  The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation helps to rehabilitate offenders, but how can an offender with a lengthy sentence re-enter the community? And if First Term Offenders do not have a meaningful opportunity to re-enter the community, then what are they being rehabilitated for?


     How will a Second Chance Initiative further humanity?  It will further humanity by allowing rehabilitated First Term Offenders to demonstrate that further incarceration is no longer warranted.  This Initiative will provide them the opportunity to earn a second chance through judicial review.  There are many offenders who go on to demonstrate true personal reform, remorse, and the ability to contribute positively to the community if given the chance.  Do we want to better social justice by working toward equality and restoration for everyone?


      1st major effect:     This initiative will enable justice by imposing proportionality in punishment to an offender's criminal culpability.

     2nd major effect:     It will reduce government costs in prison spending and redirect funds for community building by filtering qualified First Term Offenders to parole.  Furthermore, it will help to improve prison stability by easing overcrowding.

(According to the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation April 2014 Report, California has 34 prisons and it is operating over 100% of its design capacity.  It costs billions of dollars per year to incarcerate over a hundred thousand inmates.  In part, the annual cost to incarcerate one inmate is about $44,000.  As of 2014, about 135,000 inmates are incarcerated in California. That means it costs over 5 billion dollars to incarcerate CDCR inmates per year.  See proposal for more specifics.)

     3rd major effect:     It will establish provisions to protect the public from heinous offenders from become eligible for re-sentencing.  Provisions that consider the severity of the offender's crime and whether it demonstrates extremely callous disregard for human suffering.

(See proposal non-eligibility provision for more specifics.)

     4th major effect:     It will establish a maximum amount of prison time for First Term Offenders to complete before becoming eligible for re-sentencing consideration.

(For example:  A First Term Offender with a total sentence equal or less than 25 years to life will be eligible for re-sentencing consideration on his/her 15th year of incarceration; and First Term Offender with a total sentence more than 25 years to life will become eligible for re-sentencing consideration on his/her 20th year of incarceration.  See proposal eligibility provision for more specifics.)

     5th major effect:     It will establish guidelines for public safety by establishing specific criteria to reduce recidivism.  These guidelines will consider a range of factors, including criminal history, offense severity, prison disciplinary record, education, vocational trade, active participation, contribution in education and self-help programs during incarceration.

(See proposal guidelines for re-sentencing consideration for more specifics.)


     The proposal for a Second Chance Initiative for First Term Offenders addresses the disparities in justice, punishment, rehabilitation, and humanity.  The proposal suggests a viable plan to alleviate these disparities.  

     Moreover, the Second Chance Initiative will prevent qualified First Term Offenders from further unwarranted incarceration.  This Initiative will allow qualified First Term Offenders an opportunity to demonstrate accountability, maturity, and rehabilitation to the courts for re-sentencing.  It is designed to help people who made the worst choice at the worst time in their lives.  It will give them an opportunity to earn their way into their communities.  In addition, it will cut a portion of the billions of dollars in prison costs which potentially can be used to build healthier communities.  This Initiative allows offenders who have demonstrated true personal reform and the ability to contribute positively, the chance to give back to the community.

     Raise your voice with ours.  Call upon those individuals and organizations that have the resources and capability to help enact a Second Chance Initiative.  The goal is to have our elected officials and organizations, who work to reform the laws, act on this proposed ballot initiative.  This is a viable Initiative that supports purposeful rehabilitation, meaningful punishment, and human dignity.  It is an Initiative that helps to offset costly unproductive lengthy sentences.  Ultimately, is it not the means for justice to be within proportion, punishment within reason, rehabilitation with purpose, and humanity with dignity?

For more details about the Second Chance Initiative proposal please visit:

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