When Melody Brown’s husband was murdered, she never thought she would be able to forgive the man who killed him. However, she was able to find mercy and even supported the man’s release under Washington, DC’s second look reforms. Now, she’s working at a local nonprofit to support formerly incarcerated people in the District.
Related to: Sentencing Reform
In December 2020, the DC Council overwhelmingly approved the Second Look Amendment Act (“Second Look Act”) as part of a broad package of reforms, allowing people who committed crimes under age 25 to petition the courts for resentencing after 15 years of imprisonment. Melody Brown was a key supporter of the reform.
In 1995, Brown’s husband, Jerome McDaniel, was killed by 16-year-old Bennie Floyd. For years, Brown wanted Floyd to “rot in hell” for turning her anniversaries into visits to the cemetery. But she was moved by a letter from Floyd demonstrating remorse and maturity, and by the example that her daughters set in forgiving him. “I’m rooting for him,” she now says of Floyd. She supported his release under DC’s original second look reform, the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA) of 2016, which allowed resentencing for crimes committed under age 18. She then successfully advocated for extending the reform to crimes committed by emerging adults.
A broad coalition supporting this legislation overcame opposition from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, with support from trusted criminal justice leaders and with informed news coverage of the successes of those resentenced for youth crimes. DC’s second look reforms make up to 29% of people imprisoned with DC convictions eventually eligible for resentencing. Criminal justice leaders who championed this reform have recommended expanding it further.