A bipartisan bill on Capitol Hill seeks to fix what lawmakers call the “broken” criminal justice system. One group in Texas thinks it’s a step in the right direction, albeit limited.
The bill – from Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) – is known as the Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment (REDEEM) Act. While the U.S. is home to less than five percent of the world’s population, Senator Paul says it’s responsible for almost 25 percent of the world’s prison population. As a result, Paul says America’s crippled system wastes massive sums of taxpayer dollars to make its streets less, not more, safe.
The REDEEM Act seeks to fix this “broken system” with seven major reforms that will help people convicted of nonviolent crimes successfully re-enter society. In a press release, the bill sponsors say the Act would:
- Allow adults convicted of nonviolent crimes to petition a court to have their records sealed one year after the completion of their sentence;
- Automatically seal and, in some cases, expunge juvenile records;
- Incentivize states to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 years old;
- Significantly restrict room confinement of juveniles;
- Lift the lifetime SNAP and TANF bans on people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes;
- Combat gender disparities in the federal juvenile system; and
- Improve the accuracy of the FBI background check system.
“I have some concerns with some of the provisions [of REDEEM] and I think some of the others are just chasing shiny things that are not really a matter of interest in the federal system,” says Cohen. “That being said, all things being equal, in net, I’d say it’s a step in the right direction, albeit limited.”
Cohen and Texas-based Right on Crime are no strangers to criminal justice reform.
“We were at such … overcapacity [that] we were having to let armed robbers walk free because we were having drug dealers taking up prison space and we just didn’t have the flexibility to maneuver around that,” he explains. “So … we went back and rejiggered our population and the way we deal with probation and parole and what not, and we were able to not only stop our prison growth, we were able to turn it down in the other direction.”
Cohen says that was made possible by taking a systematic approach – “as opposed to just looking at kind of low-hanging fruit, which I think is a large part of the bill that was presented.”
Still, is it important to have someone on the right involved in talks on criminal justice reform?
“I wouldn’t even look at it as a matter of importance, I would look at it as a matter of necessity,” he answers. “The right has the victims and the taxpayers front and center when it comes to any form of discussion, and that’s why the results that we look for tend to focus more on reduction of recidivism.”
Copyright American Family News. Reprinted with permission.