Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and Republican Sen. Rand Paul are working on a bill that would restructure the criminal justice system in a way that helps criminals readjust to the outside world. The REDEEM Act would help juvenile and adult inmates wipe their records and restore some rights in and outside of prison.
According to The Star Ledger, the bill gives states an incentive if they raise the "tried as an adult" age to 18, ban solitary confinement for youths except in extreme cases, expunge the non-violent criminal records of those under 15 and allow 15-17 year olds to seal their records (meaning they could claim they don't exist). Solitary confinement has been linked to suicides, and Attorney General Eric Holder called the excessive use of the punishment "a serious impediment to the ability of juveniles to succeed once released." Allowing records to be sealed or expunged means young adults' non-violent crimes won't follow them as they look for work.
The bill would also lift the ban on welfare benefits for those convicted of drug charges, create a path for adult ex-cons to apply to seal their records, and only allow employers to see "relevant and accurate information" when they perform background checks. The end goal of the bill is to help convicted criminals re-enter the job market. Recidivism might go down “if records were expunged after time served, and if nonviolent crimes did not become a permanent blot preventing employment,” Paul said in a statement.
Paul's criminal justice reform push has received bipartisan support before — his efforts to return voting rights to convicted criminals has been praised by Sen. Harry Reid. And, even though Paul campaigned for Booker's Republican opponent in his Senate race, the two have worked together in the past. Last month they co-sponsored an amendment to stop the government from going after legalized medicinal marijuana.