Elijah Cummings and Karen Bass Offer Redemption
People, especially juveniles, make dumb decisions, and sometimes that means catching a case. But Congressional Black Caucus Chair Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are offering some redemption. The pair teamed up with Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to introduce the Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment (REDEEM) Act. The legislation would expunge or seal offenses that are committed by a child and provide a way for adults to seal non-violent criminal records. “Tragically, in today’s world, a criminal record has become a life sentence carrying with it the possibility —and all too often, the reality— of it negatively affecting one’s employment, housing, access to credit, child support, and so many other issues. We know that sentences issued by our criminal justice system disproportionately affect Americans of color,” said Cummings. He said the bill is an effort to reform the broken criminal justice system. Proponents say the measure would offer formerly incarcerated individuals the tools to effectively reintegrate into society is essential in preventing recidivism. One in three American adults currently has a criminal record. Unfortunately, over two-thirds of formerly-incarcerated people are re-arrested within three years. Removing collateral consequences, including barriers to employment, education, and benefits, is one way to address this troubling trend. Bass said the bill would ensure that after a prison sentence is served, the criminal justice system doesn’t tack on a life-sentence's worth of obstacles affecting access to housing, employment, and other tools necessary to effectively reintegrate into society. “Successful criminal justice reform must pay close attention to this phase of incarceration in order to reduce recidivism rates in this country. As we continue our fight to reform this broken system, I encourage my colleagues to keep a close eye on how women are disproportionately affected by this system at every turn – from how they initially get entwined, to how they are treated in prison, to what happens when they are released. I look forward to continuing to work on this important issue.” Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) is expected to introduce the Senate version of this bill in the coming weeks. More here.