Cory Booker, Rand Paul team up for justice
By: Seung Min Kim
July 8, 2014 12:03 AM EDT
Meet the Senate’s newest odd couple: Sens. Cory Booker and Rand Paul.
The duo of high-profile, first-term senators — one a New Jersey Democrat who came to Capitol Hill on Twitter-fueled national fame, the other a Kentucky Republican mulling a presidential bid in 2016 — will roll out legislation that comprehensively overhauls the U.S. criminal justice system.
The measure, called the REDEEM Act, has several pillars: It encourages states to change policies so children are directed away from the adult criminal justice system; automatically expunges or seals — depending on their age — criminal records of juveniles who committed nonviolent crimes; and limits solitary confinement of children, except in rare circumstances.
The legislation also creates a path for adults with nonviolent offenses to seal their criminal records and restores food stamp and welfare benefits for low-level drug offenders who have served their sentences.
The senators touted the legislation as a smarter use of taxpayer funds while more effectively focusing rehabilitation efforts for young individuals to help them avoid committing future crimes.
“I will work with anyone, from any party, to make a difference for the people of New Jersey and this bipartisan legislation does just that,” Booker said in a statement to be released Tuesday.
In his own statement, Paul said the existing criminal system has kept scores of young men and women in a “cycle of poverty and incarceration.”
“Many of these young people could escape this trap if criminal justice were reformed, if records were expunged after time served, and if nonviolent crimes did not become a permanent blot preventing employment,” Paul said.
Paul, in particular, has made reforms to the criminal justice system one of his signature issues. Most recently, he introduced legislation that would restore voting rights for nonviolent felons in federal elections — a move that was praised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
He is also working on reforms to drug sentencing laws and ways to aid nonviolent criminals seeking employment.