FAMM Welcomes the Matthew Charles and William Underwood Act
The new bill would allow judges to reduce lengthy sentences of prisoners who have shown evidence of notable rehabilitation while in prison.
WASHINGTON – This week Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) will be introducing the Matthew Charles and William Underwood Act. The bill would create a second look sentencing provision to allow judges to reduce lengthy sentences if a person has served more than 10 years, has made significant strides toward rehabilitation, and is no longer a risk to public safety.
“We have to stop throwing so many people away. People can change, and our sentencing laws ought to reflect that,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring. “Lengthy prison sentences are not always the right answer, especially when someone has proven their commitment to rehabilitation. Public safety can be improved by taking a second look at those lengthy sentences, reducing them when warranted, and redirecting anti-crime resources where they might actually do some good.
“We are grateful to Sen. Booker for his leadership. His bill should begin a much-needed debate about how to address excessive federal prison sentences. We will not be able to safely reduce our prison population until we do so.”
The bill is named in honor of Matthew Charles, a FAMM Justice Fellow and the first beneficiary of the First Step Act’s retroactive sentencing reform, and William Underwood, who is currently serving a life without parole sentence for a federal drug conviction.
“I’m honored to have this proposal named after me and Mr. Underwood. This bill will make sure that people who are serving long sentences get a second look,” said Charles. “I changed dramatically in prison, and I know of many others on the inside who deserve a second chance.”
Both Charles’ and Underwood’s excessive sentences and clear rehabilitation highlight the need for a federal second look sentencing provision.
In support of the new legislation, FAMM is releasing the following:
- A white paper explaining the background of and need for a second look bill;
- A short video that provides firsthand perspectives of four formerly incarcerated individuals, including Matthew Charles;
- An infographic that explains how a second look provision would work in practice.
FAMM has been a longtime supporter of expanding ways to revisit harsh sentences, including executive clemency, compassionate release, and second look. Last month, USA Today published an op-ed co-authored by Ring and former federal judge Kevin Sharp on the need for second look sentencing laws.
For nearly three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM’s focus on ending a one-size-fits-all punishment structure has led to reforms to sentencing and prison policies in 6 states and is paving the way to programs that support rehabilitation for the 94% of all prisoners who will return to our neighborhoods one day.
FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.