Anyone in Cook County who follows the national debate on drug crimes will be familiar with the push to reform sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenders. There are many people from Chicagoland who will spend the next several decades in prison, or possibly the rest of their lives, just because they were caught with a significant amount of drugs. They were charged with and convicted of one or more federal drug crimes, like possession with intent to sell, and have been locked up since.
A handful of senators are hoping to reform the criminal justice system by focusing on nonviolent juvenile offenders. Senators form both sides of the aisle have introduced the Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act in an effort to make it easier for nonviolent juveniles to have their records cleared after they have served their punishment.
While some people may argue that juveniles should have to live with the decisions they have made, they are asking quite a bit of young people who have made some serious mistakes. These young people have often served sentences or otherwise faced criminal punishments and are then expected to go forth with a criminal record and go to school or find work. There are many employers who turn away applicants simply because they have criminal convictions.
It is unknown if this bill will be able to get the support it needs to pass the Senate. It may also have a difficult time in the House of Representatives before landing on the president’s desk. There have been a number of vocal supporters of the need to reform the criminal justice system from both parties, however, so this bill may just become law.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Sens. Cory Booker and Rand Paul Team Up On Nonviolent Offender Rules,” Heather Haddon, July 8, 2014