MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., find themselves on opposite sides of the aisle in most legislative fights, but the two senators are putting aside party differences to tackle the criminal justice system in the U.S.
Booker and Paul unveiled new legislation Tuesday called the REDEEM ACT, short for the Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act, to address criminal justice reform.
“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. 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,” Paul said Tuesday.
“I will work with anyone, from any party, to make a difference for the people of New Jersey and this bipartisan legislation does just that,” Booker said. “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.”
The REDEEM Act will offer ways for adults to seal their non-violent criminal records; encourage states to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old; permits the sealing and expungement of juvenile records for kids who commit non-violent crimes; restricts the use of solitary confinement for juveniles; and lifts the ban on SNAP and TANF benefits for low-level drug offenders.
The senators’ offices noted that while the U.S. makes up 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
The two senators have shared mutual interests in the past. When Booker, the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, was elected to the Senate last year, he specifically said he was interested in working with Paul to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
In recent months, Paul has joined Democrats on other initiatives, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal to overhaul how the military handles sexual assault cases, and he has visited urban areas, such as Detroit, in an attempt to broaden the Republican Party’s outreach ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run.
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