WASHINGTON, D.C. - Building on the growing momentum and bipartisan coalitions rallying behind broad-based criminal justice reform, U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), today re-introduced S. 675, the REDEEM Act, sweeping legislation to reform the nation's broken criminal justice system, which has grown increasingly costly over the past four decades.
The REDEEM Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) will give Americans convicted of non-violent crimes a second chance at the American Dream. The legislation will help prevent kids who get into trouble from slipping into a lifetime of crime and help adults who commit non-violent crimes become more self-reliant and less likely to commit future crimes. These steps would reduce the cost to taxpayers of our criminal justice system and increase public safety.
"The War on Drugs has had a disproportional affect on minorities and our inner cities. Our current system is broken and has trapped tens of thousands of young men and women in a cycle of poverty and incarceration," Sen. Paul said. "It is my hope that the REDEEM Act will help many of these young people escape this trap by reforming our criminal justice system, expunging records after time served, and preventing non-violent crimes from becoming a permanent blot on one's record."
"Our broken criminal justice system is a shameful contradiction to our founding principles as a nation that declares liberty and justice for all," Sen. Booker said. "For over a year now, I have worked with people on both sides of the aisle to develop meaningful policy reform that truly restores justice to our justice system. The REDEEM Act is a part of the growing momentum from both the left and the right to enact common sense reforms that would save taxpayer money and make our communities safer."
Specifically, the REDEEM Act:
- Incentivizes states to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old: Currently 10 states have set the original jurisdiction of adult criminal courts below 18 years old. This sends countless kids into the unforgiving adult criminal system. The REDEEM Act incentivizes states to change that by offering preference to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant applications for those that have set 18 or older as the age of original jurisdiction for adult criminal courts.
- Allows for sealing and expungement of juvenile records: Provides for automatic expungement of records for kids who commit non-violent crimes before they turn 15 and automatic sealing of records for those who commit non-violent crimes after they turn 15 years old.
- Restricts use of juvenile solitary confinement: Ends the cruel and counterproductive practice of solitary confinement except in the most extreme circumstances in which it is necessary to protect a juvenile detainee or those around them.
- Offers adults a way to seal non-violent criminal records: Presents the first broad-based federal path to the sealing of criminal records for adults. Non-violent offenders will be able to petition a court and make their case. Furthermore, employers requesting FBI background checks will get only relevant and accurate information - thereby protecting job applicants - because of provisions to improve the background check system.
- Lifts ban on SNAP and TANF benefits for low-level drug offenders: The REDEEM Act restores access to benefits for those who have served their time for use and possession crimes, and for those who have paid their dues for distribution crimes provided their offense was rationally related to a substance abuse disorder and they have enrolled in a treatment program.
As taxes on hard-working Americans have increased to help pay for prison spending, there are fewer resources available for law enforcement, rehabilitative programs, and proven investments in children to prevent crime in the first place. The result has been a cycle of spending and incarceration that led to more than a quarter of a trillion dollars a year drained from our economy going to unproductive uses.
Though only five percent of the world's population lives in the United States, it is home to 25 percent of the world's prison population. This phenomenon has rapidly increased in the years since 1980 and the federal prison population has grown by nearly ten-fold since. Not only does the current overpopulated, underfunded system hurt those incarcerated, it also digs deeper into the pockets of taxpaying Americans.
In 1980, the average American contributed $77 a year to corrections expenditures. By 2010, that number jumped to $260. When you factor in other related costs such as judicial and legal services, that number grows exponentially.
Click HERE to read the REDEEM Act in its entirety.