Sen. Cory Booker has once again formed an unusual alliance to roll out new legislation. The junior senator from New Jersey and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a potential 2016 presidential contender, on Tuesday introduced the REDEEM Act, which they say will reform the nation's "broken" criminal justice system.
REDEEM stands for Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment. More specifically, it would provide incentives to states to keep kids under age 18 out of adult criminal courts; seal and expunge juvenile records for offenders of non-violent crimes; restrict juvenile solitary confinement; and offer adults an opportunity to petition to have their records for non-violent crimes sealed. In addition, the REDEEM Act would restore welfare and food stamps benefits to low-level drug offenders who've served their sentences.
The two lawmakers believe the legislation would make better use of tax dollars and help discourage young offenders from committing future crimes.
"The REDEEM Act will ensure that our tax dollars are being used in smarter, more productive ways. It will also establish much-needed sensible reforms that keep kids out of the adult correctional system, protect their privacy so a youthful mistake can remain a youthful mistake, and help make it less likely that low-level adult offenders re-offend," Booker said in a statement.
Paul, who recently introduced a bill that would restore federal election voting rights to non-violent felons and is pushing reforms to make drug-sentencing laws fairer, says the REDEEM Act is a way to break a cycle of poverty and incarceration.
"The biggest impediment to civil rights and employment in our country is a criminal record. Our current system is broken and has trapped tens of thousands of young men and women in a cycle of poverty and incarceration," he said in a statement. "Many of these young people could escape this trap if criminal justice were reformed, if records were expunged after time served, and if non-violent crimes did not become a permanent blot preventing employment.”
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(Photos from left: John Moore/Getty Images, Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)