New Senate bill from Paul, Booker embraces redemption

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have co-sponsored a bill that aims to reintroduce the idea of redemption to the criminal justice system, an idea we’ve explored previously here at The Watch. The new bill is called the REDEEM Act.

Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post runs down the particulars of what the bill would do:

  • 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.

The phrase “bipartisan legislation” usually makes me cringe in fear of what will come next. It’s nice to see it used for good once in a while.

Here’s the press release from Paul’s office. And here’s the announcement from Booker’s.

Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
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