Over the past 50 years, New York’s laws have resulted in increasingly harsh sentences — with no opportunity for sentencing judges to review and reconsider individual cases.
Decades-long prison terms have become the norm in New York. Every year, nearly 1,000 people are sentenced to 10 or more years in prison, and over 4,000 people—more than 10% of people in prison—have been there for 15 years or longer. New York State has the third-largest population of people serving terms of life imprisonment in the country. Nearly 7,000 New Yorkers are currently serving life sentences. This is unconscionable given the human capacity to grow and change.
Those who are serving lengthy sentences have no opportunity to demonstrate to a judge that they have changed after years or decades in prison or that, given changed laws and norms, the sentence is no longer appropriate. Judges have spoken out about their inability to review sentences that they later deemed extreme or unjust. The Second Look Act will allow judges to review and reconsider excessive sentences.