A political odd couple has teamed up to introduce bipartisan legislation for common-sense reform of the country’s criminal justice system.
U.S. Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Corey Booker, D-N.J., sponsored the measure to free nonviolent, low-level drug offenders from the mistakes of their past by limiting how long criminal records stick to ex-convicts.
The REDEEM Act seeks to raise the age of criminal responsibly to 18 years of age, expunge or seal the records of juveniles who commit nonviolent crimes before they turn 15, lift the federal ban on food stamps and welfare benefits for low-level drug offenders and establish a system to allow eligible nonviolent criminals to petition a court to ask that their criminal records be sealed.
Sealing the records would keep them out of FBI background checks requested by employers and likely make it easier for those former offenders to secure a job. Thousands of middle-aged Americans continue to have to disclose minor criminal offenses of their youth on job applications, hampering their efforts to improve their lives through gainful employment.
The War on Drugs and resulting zero-tolerance policies of the 1980s and 1990s dramatically increased the country’s prison population, putting hundreds of thousands of low-level, non-violent drug offenders behind bars. These minor criminal backgrounds often continue to plague youthful offenders well into their adult years, creating obstacles to any efforts they undertake to change their lives and rejoin society as productive and successful law-abiding citizens. Paul and Booker are right on target.