Hundreds of protestors and organizers gathered outside of the U.S. Judiciary Center to protest Jessie Liu’s — Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney General to D.C.— recent press release that lobbied against the Second Look Amendment Act.
Called the #DecarcerateDC protest, this event took place on Sept. 5. But the struggle for fair laws around incarcerated individuals continues.
“This [Second Look Act] isn’t about a rubber stamp, get out of jail free card,” said Tyrone Walker, a fellow at the Justice Policy Institute who was formerly incarcerated and who spent 9,012 days in prison. He was also the fourth person to be recently released under Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA).
“If I didn’t tell you that I committed a murder at 17, you wouldn’t know. I made a mistake. When we make that mistake, we need you to treat us like we’re humans.”
The Second Look Act is the third iteration of the IRAA — a 2106 D.C. Council created law that addresses issues of young offenders in the District. IRAA’s 2016 version provided relief and reconsideration for juveniles that were tried as adults — those who had served at least 20 years and had not yet qualified for parole — could petition to have their sentences reduced by the superior court. The revised 2019 version of the law would allow juveniles who’d served 15 years, as well as those who’d been denied parole, the ability to request a sentence reduction.
Currently, Washington, D.C. has the highest incarceration rate of anywhere in the world. In a study conducted by the ACLU of D.C., black people accounted for 86 percent of arrests made by the D.C. police department from 2013 to 2017, despite only making up 47 percent of the population.
Organized by Black Lives Matter D.C., Stop Police Terror Project D.C., Black Youth Project 100, The Wire, DecarcerateDC, and the American Civil Liberties Union, protestors wore shirts branded with ‘Support 3.0 #SecondLook’, handed out by organizers of the event.
Throughout the event, a range of organizers, protestors, formerly incarcerated survivors, and family members of incarcerated people spoke to the crowd about their personal experiences with the criminal-legal system, as well as steps the D.C. community could take to support the act. Many were persistent in their support of calling and writing congress people and showing up to in person events.
“Call and write your congress people, or the city council,” said Jabari Zakiya, a protestor from the Coalition to End Supervised Release. “Show up for city hearings and trials. People need to stop being passive.”
“If you hear anything about the movements, come down and support, or online, on Facebook, be aware. There’s a lot of people that aren’t aware. Stay aware and keep in contact with people dealing with this act,” LaVenia Robinson, another protester, said.
One major tenet of support for the Second Look Act has been research showing that the prefrontal cortex, which regulates emotions, considers risky and impulsive behavior, and thinks about long term consequences, doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25. There is also a considerable amount of research that shows that criminal violence is closely tied to youth, and tapers off after age 25.
“When we’re talking about emerging adults, your brain is not fully developed. And let’s not forget, we’re talking about the 1990s,” a protestor named Troy, whose last name is unavailable, said speaking specifically about the 1990s crime bill that accelerated mass incarceration and turned prisons into a billion dollar industry.
The impact of this crime bill is still felt today, and according to protestors, shows why the Second Look Act is necessary.
“Because they never got a first look. People get sentenced not because of what they do, but because of who they are,” Jabari Zakiya said.
Other protesters and organizers agreed.
“Everyone deserves a second look. Everyone deserves a second chance,” Tyrone Walker said.