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Scholars have championed “second look” statutes as a decarceral tool. Second look statutes allow certain incarcerated people to seek resentencing after having served a portion of their sentences. This Essay weighs the advantages and disadvantages of these statutes as applied to children sentenced to die in prison and argues that focusing on this small, discrete group may be a digestible entry point for more conservative states who fear widespread resentencing. Moreover, because early data indicates that children convicted of homicide and released as adults have very low recidivism rates, second look beneficiaries are likely to pose little threat to public safety. While resentencing and even releasing these individuals would not directly result in mass decarceration, it would serve as a litmus test for expanding second look statutes to adults convicted of violent crimes—the very group for whom meaningful decarceral efforts must ultimately be aimed.
The Essay also argues that second look legislation has the potential to redress two specific sentencing problems common to cases involving children: the inability to accurately assess an individual’s capacity for change and racially discriminatory sentencing outcomes. To redress these problems, and to avoid reflexive impositions of original sentences, this Essay recommends three critical additions to juvenile second look statutes: automatic eligibility for resentencing at age twenty-five, jury resentencing, and inadmissibility of the defendant’s original sentence.
Oklahoma Law Review
second look sentencing, children sentenced to die in prison, juvenile life without parole, JLWOP, resentencing, Eighth Amendment, jury trial, decarceration, sentencing shielding, brain development, racially discrimination, arbitrariness
Constitutional Law | Jurisprudence | Law
A Second Look for Children Sentenced to Die in Prison,
Oklahoma Law Review