WASHINGTON, April 21, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) reintroduced legislation in the House that would overhaul the nation's criminal justice system with a focus on reducing escalating costs associated with a rising prison population, while enhancing public safety. The REDEEM Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) serves as a companion to the bipartisan Senate legislation reintroduced by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) earlier this year.
The comprehensive justice reform legislation seeks to reduce recidivism among both youth and adults through a series of acts that would lessen the obstacles these nonviolent offenders face when rejoining society, and ultimately allows them a second chance at experiencing the American dream.
"The REDEEM Act gives us the opportunity to fix our broken criminal justice system and end the cyclical pattern of incarceration that for decades has restricted nonviolent offenders from successfully re-entering society and pursuing education and employment opportunities," Congressman Fattah said. "We know there is a growing bipartisan consensus that a comprehensive overhaul of the United States justice system is strongly needed. By implementing the reforms laid out in this legislation, the country would ease the crushing financial burden of our prison system and help return hundreds of thousands of inmates to a life of productivity. The policies outlined in this bill combine best practices in justice reinvestment to ensure that every member of our society has the opportunity to reach their fullest potential."
Specifically, the REDEEM Act will:
- Limit the use of solitary confinement for juvenile offenders: The REDEEM Act ends the cruel and counterproductive practice of solitary confinement except in the most extreme circumstances in which it is necessary to protect a juvenile detainee or those around them.
- Offer adults a way to seal nonviolent criminal records: The REDEEM Act enables those convicted of nonviolent crimes to petition for the sealing of their criminal records, making it more likely that they will be able to obtain a job and reintegrate into society.
- Allow juvenile records to be sealed or expunged for crimes before age 15: The bill will improve juvenile record confidentiality, automatically expunge nonviolent juvenile offenses that are committed by a child before they turn 15, and automatically seal nonviolent juvenile offenses that occur after a child has reached the age of fifteen.
- Incentivize states to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18 years old: Studies of youth brain development have found that the decision-making functions of the brain do not fully develop until much later than was previously believed to be the case. Despite this, some states still try 17- and 16-year olds as adults by default.
- Lift the ban on SNAP and TANF benefits for low-level drug offenders: The REDEEM Act restores access to benefits for those who have served their time for use, possession, and distribution crimes, provided that their offense was rationally related to a substance abuse disorder and they have enrolled in a treatment program.
In each instance, the legislation also expands eligibility and incentives for states that enact similar or stronger provisions through preference given in the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant applications.
The United States— home to 25 percent of the world's prison population—has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. The country's prison population has increased at a dramatic rate, growing nearly 10-fold since 1980. Not only does the current overpopulated, underfunded system hurt those incarcerated, it also wastes taxpayer dollars.
Through his leadership on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS), Congressman Fattah has pressed for an overhaul of the nation's criminal justice system, highlighting the growing bipartisan calls for both prison and sentencing reform. He has been a leader in calling for support for justice reinvestment programs, and was instrumental in helping to create and fund the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections that is currently examining data-driven policy options to address the challenges associated with prison growth and increasing corrections costs.
SOURCE Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah