The United States puts more people in prison, for a much longer time than any other country in the world – much higher than Cuba, Russia, or Azerbaijan – countries with totalitarian governments and decades of civil strife. This is the result of half a century of “tough on crime” legislation and ever more punitive sentencing.
For a decade Republicans and Democrats have been working together to address the key problem of allowing non-violent criminals to reenter society once they have served their time. In general, once he or she has reentered society and has a job they are less likely than the general population to end up in prison at some later time.
The REDEEM ACT, introduced in the US Senate by Senators Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY), seeks to expand employment opportunities for those with federal criminal records by giving federal courts authority to seal records. This legislation will help youth who get into trouble by expunging or sealing their records. It encourages states to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 years old and to restrict the use of solitary confinement for people under 18. Adults who commit non-violent crimes will have their criminal records cleaned up to overcome the barriers to employment and public assistance created by having a criminal record. The Act would allow adults convicted of a non-violent crime to petition to have their records sealed one year after completion of their sentence. It also will improve the accuracy of the FBI background check system.
We can make a real difference by getting our Senators and Representatives to vote for the REDEEM Act. We can have federal law that models itself after 26 states and more than 150 cities and counties across the country. Let’s stop punishing people twice.
Call to Action
Call your Senators AND Representatives - this legislation will be debated in both Houses of Congress so urge them all to support the REDEEM ACT. Tell them that this is one area for bi-partisan cooperation on behalf of some of our most vulnerable citizens.