A proposed bill would limit collateral penalties for some non-violent offenders.
The number of people arrested in the U.S. continues to rise. According to the New York Times, 30 percent of people in the U.S. have been arrested by the time they are 23 years old, up from 22 percent in 1967. Many of those arrests are due to the “War on Drugs” started in the 1980s. The affects of an arrest or criminal conviction can have disastrous effects on a person’s life. Bi-partisan legislation introduced in July 2014 would reduce some of the punitive provisions that accompany a criminal record.
Collateral effects of having a criminal record
Those who have been convicted of a crime, or even just arrested but never charged with a crime, can struggle long after they have paid penalties handed out by the court. In the increasingly competitive job market, many employers have begun to use background checks when making hiring decisions, discarding all applications by those with criminal records. Those with certain types of criminal convictions are barred from public housing, and often have difficulties finding a place to live. Many drug crime convictions also disqualify people from receiving federal student loans for post-secondary education or training.
Without being able to find work, obtain housing or access higher education, people are more likely to re-offend.
Helping nonviolent offenders move forward
The proposed Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act would address some of the obstacles that people with criminal records have to face when trying to move forward with their lives. The REDEEM Act would establish the first federal program for sealing criminal records of non-violent offenders. Additionally, the bill would reverse the ban on receiving SNAP and TANF benefits for those who were convicted of non-violent drug crimes if the crime was related to a substance abuse problem and they are enrolled in treatment programs.
The bill also focuses on improving the chances for juvenile offenders. The bill would offer funding to states that raise the age for jurisdiction of adult criminal courts to 18 years old. The bill would also allow for automatic expungement of criminal records for those who are convicted of non-violent offenses before they are 15 years old, and automatic sealing of criminal records for those who commit nonviolent offenses after age 15 but before age 18.
Consult an attorney
The REDEEM Act draws attention to the serious difficulties that those with criminal records encounter. If you are facing criminal charges, it is vital to have the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. If you have been charged with a crime, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help minimize the impact of such charges on your life.
Keywords: criminal law; criminal record; non-violent offenders; juvenile offenders