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Opinion Early release works for most offenders

Joel Caston, shown in December 2019, was a participant in the Georgetown Prison Scholars Program at the D.C. Jail.
Joel Caston, shown in December 2019, was a participant in the Georgetown Prison Scholars Program at the D.C. Jail. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

The May 13 Metro article “After an early release, a new murder charge” dwelled on the sensational details of an individual’s crime 27 years ago, then called into question the D.C. law that allows the early release of people who were incarcerated when they were very young. The implication is that the other 66 individuals released under the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act are also murderers-in-waiting. 

Readers were not told how many of those individuals are using their freedom to help today’s youths in ways that those without their lived experience could not. Anthony Petty is serving as a credible messenger, counseling youths who might otherwise end up behind bars. James Dunn is working as a violence interrupter, intervening in neighborhood disputes before they escalate into violence. James Carpenter is using his construction experience to teach vocational skills to young people at the Capital Guardian Youth Challenge Academy, a D.C. intervention program that offers troubled kids a residential alternative to dysfunctional homes. 

Experience shows that Mr. Petty, Mr. Dunn and Mr. Carpenter are more representative than the man featured in the article. Consider this: A 2012 court case, Unger v. Maryland, resulted in the release of 188 people — most convicted of murder or rape — after serving more than 30 years. Only five of them returned to prison, and only one for a new crime. This is a story that deserves to be told as well.

Pam Bailey, Washington

The writer is co-founder of
MoreThanOurCrimes.org.

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