Cory Booker and Rand Paul Team Up on Criminal Justice Reform
WASHINGTON — Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are set to introduce legislation that aims to break the cycle of incarceration for nonviolent offenders.
The REDEEM Act takes aim at policies that affect both children and adults. Among its main provisions, the bill would:
- Encourage states to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18-years-old, directing children away from adult criminal courts. Currently, some states still try 16- and 17-year-olds as adults by default.
- Automatically expunge or seal records for juveniles who commit nonviolent crimes. Individuals would have their records of nonviolent juvenile offenses automatically expunged if they commit those crimes before they turn 15 and automatically sealed if they commit the crimes between the ages of 15 and 18.
- Restrict the use of solitary confinement for children.
- Offer the first broad-based federal path to sealing nonviolent criminal records for adults. Nonviolent offenders would be able to petition to have their records sealed, making it easier for them to reenter society. It would also improve the accuracy of FBI backgrounds when employers ask for such information, providing increased protection to job applicants.
- Restore access to government benefits for certain low-level drug offenders.
Paul’s endorsement of the last provision is significant, as a member of a party that has focused on ways to cut down the use of such benefits.
Criminal justice reform was central to Booker’s Senate campaign, and Paul has championed the issue while in the Senate. The two also recently teamed up on an amendment barring the Justice Department from spending money to combat medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Last month, Paul also introduced a bill to restore voting rights for people who are in prison for minor drug offenses.