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Bend open the prison bars

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This fall, the U.S. Senate, led by New York’s own Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, has the chance to revamp our nation’s failing mass incarceration system — while notching a major bipartisan win.

Several sentencing reform proposals with broad support are awaiting action on the Senate floor. These bills could provide thousands of people serving life without parole and other extreme sentences an opportunity for release.

I was locked behind bars for 33 years. So for me, this is deeply personal. Schumer should act quickly to schedule a vote on the legislation and give people who have transformed their lives a second chance.

In January, I came home from prison because U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein granted me compassionate release. Stein found that while my sentence reflected the seriousness of my criminal behavior decades earlier — I led a street-level heroin distribution operation — its severity did not account for the person I am today.

He wrote in his release order: “Underwood, currently 67 years old and in the 33rd year of his sentence, has now spent half his life in federal prison. The difference between these two halves could not be more pronounced...Underwood has...been a manifestly model inmate, a mentor........

© NY Daily News

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