Booker, Paul Aim to Restore Welfare Benefits for Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) teamed up today for a bill intended to give nonviolent criminals "a second chance at the American dream."

The REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act would offer "the first broad-based federal path to the sealing of criminal records for adults" through a court petition process.

It would create incentive grants to make the 10 states that set the age of adult criminal responsibility below age 18 change their procedures. Further, the legislation would automatically expunge records of kids who commit nonviolent crimes before age 15. The act would end "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."

Under the legislation, those who have served their time for use, possession, and distribution crimes "provided their offense was rationally related to a substance abuse disorder and they have enrolled in a treatment program" would be allowed access again to welfare benefits -- specifically the SNAP and TANF programs.

"The biggest impediment to civil rights and employment in our country is a criminal record. Our current system is broken and has trapped tens of thousands of young men and women in a cycle of poverty and incarceration," Paul said. "Many of these young people could escape this trap if criminal justice were reformed, if records were expunged after time served, and if non-violent crimes did not become a permanent blot preventing employment."

"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. "The REDEEM Act will ensure that our tax dollars are being used in smarter, more productive ways."

"It will also establish much-needed sensible reforms that keep kids out of the adult correctional system, protect their privacy so a youthful mistake can remain a youthful mistake, and help make it less likely that low-level adult offenders re-offend."