Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), will introduce the REDEEM Act, groundbreaking bipartisan legislation that makes it easier for formerly incarcerated individuals to reintegrate into society and provides greater rights to juvenile offenders. The amendment comes on the heels of an amendment offered several weeks ago by Senators Booker and Paul that would prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from arresting and prosecuting people in compliance with their state medical marijuana laws. Senator Paul also has a bill with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that would provide federal judges more discretion in sentencing.
A bipartisan bill reforming mandatory minimums introduced by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) has already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting floor action.
“The fact that two young and rising stars of both parties, both rumored to be considering future White House runs, are so passionately embracing criminal justice reform shows how politically popular these issues have become,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Voters want reform and smart elected officials know that. This legislation is good policy and good politics.”
According to an analysis by NJ.Com, the REDEEM ACT would, among other things:
– Repeal the ban on federal welfare benefits for those convicted of drug violations.
– Provide states with incentives to raise the age of criminal responsibility when suspects are automatically tried as adults to 18. Under the bill, states that set it at 18 would get an advantage in applying for Community Oriented Policing Services grants.
– Automatically expunge criminal records for children under 15 who have been convicted of non-violent crimes, and seal the records of those 15 to 17, meaning offenders could lawfully claim they do not exist.
– Create the “first broad-based federal path” for adults to petition to seal criminal records, and allow employers who request FBI background checks of applicants to see only “relevant and accurate information.”
– Ban solitary confinement of juvenile inmates except “in the most extreme circumstances.”
The U.S. has almost five percent of the world’s population, but nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners. It incarcerates more of its citizens in both per capita and absolute terms than China, North Korea, Russia or any other country in the world. The per capita incarceration of young black men exceeds that of South Africa under Apartheid. A significant portion, more than half in the federal system, are there for drug offenses. Once released formerly incarcerated individuals can legally be discriminated against in employment and housing, and in some cases can be prohibited from voting for life.
“The war on drugs is filling U.S. prisons with nonviolent offenders,” said Piper. “As our country moves towards legalizing and regulating marijuana and rolling back punitive sentencing it is important to expunge people’s records, remove the barriers they face, and reintegrate them back into society”