It’s no secret that the U.S. needs to fix its broken criminal justice system. Not only does our current system hyper-criminalize citizens, but it also makes it extremely difficult for them to bounce back and become productive members of society. Having an unclean record makes it difficult for people to get back on their feet, and unless they get an expungement, it’s a burden they have to carry with them their whole lives.
That’s where the REDEEM Act comes in. The REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act strives to help people break the cycle of criminal activity and give them a second chance. Re-introduced by Senators Rand Paul, Cory Booker, and Elijah Cummings in April of 2017, the purpose of the REDEEM Act is to change the criminal justice system and expunge records after time served. In short, it would prevent non-violent crimes from disrupting people’s futures. This bipartisan bill would put into place seven major reforms that would help people who were convicted of non-violent crimes to more successfully re-enter society. The seven changes would:
- Allow adults who have committed nonviolent crimes to petition to have their records sealed one year after completing their sentence.
- Automatically seal (and, in some cases, expunge) the records of juveniles.
- Incentivize states to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 years old.
- Significantly restrict room confinement of juveniles.
- Loft the lifetime SNAP and TANF bans on many nonviolent drug offenders.
- Improve the accuracy of the FBI background check system.
Here’s why this bill is extremely important.
As of now, the widespread availability of one’s criminal history renders qualified individuals jobless. If this bill were to pass, it would make it easier for those people to get work, thus lowering the probability of convicted criminals to re-offend. This not only promotes public safety but lowers the cost of crime and unemployment across the country (a report from the Vera Institute recently revealed that if ten states cut their re-offending rates by just ten percent, taxpayers would save $470 million a year).
People make mistakes. We’re only human. It’s unreasonable to deny others the chance to do good with their lives; we can’t turn our back on fellow Americans who have paid their debt to society and are looking for a fresh start. The REDEEM Act would ease the barriers that hold back those looking to move past their criminal record. This bill would correct our misguided criminal justice policies, and be a step in the right direction for our federal system.
The current status of the bill is that it has been read twice to Senate, but not debated or voted on. As is, it probably won’t pass, because Republicans are going to argue that it makes the government look soft on crime. But even Conservatives have agreed that it is certainly a step in the right direction, so certain modifications could be made to help the bill pass.
If you want to do your part to see this bill through, write, call or tweet your Senator with your thoughts on the proposed changes.