A positive trait of the American criminal justice system is ensuring we don’t practice cruel, unusual, or excessive punishment. Unfortunately, we have enacted well-intentioned, mandatory minimum laws that have had a negative effect on the minority community, especially African Americans. These laws have led to a disproportionate number of young African Americans being incarcerated for a decade or more for non-violent minor crimes. In contrast, many convicted of violent crimes are eligible for parole in three years. This is not an efficient or fair use of our judicial system. These laws make it hard, if not impossible, for African Americans to re-enter the economy due to their conviction record, lack of stable employment history, and current skill set.
As a candidate for Congress, I support mandatory minimum reform to address these challenges ravaging the African American community. Unfortunately, mandatory minimum reform alone does not provide solutions for those who have served jail time and are currently looking for a job. For those, I support the bi-partisan Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment (REDEEM) Act, introduced this week by Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senator Cory Booker.
The REDEEM Act encourage states to raise the age of criminal responsibly to 18 years of age; expunge or seal the records of juveniles who commit non-violent crimes before they turn 15; and offer the first broad-based federal path to sealing nonviolent criminal records for adults. It also improves the accuracy of FBI background checks providing increased protection to job applicants and restores access to government benefits for certain low-level drug offenders.
The economy, and particularly the African American community, needs this bi-partisan legislation. As Senator Paul said, “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.”
Please join me in supporting this bill that enables many who have paid their debt to society get a second chance at living the American Dream by making it easier for them to re-enter our economy.
About the Author: Micah Edmond is the 2014 Republican candidate seeking election to the U.S. House to represent the 8th Congressional District of Virginia. On April 26, 2014, Edmond was chosen as the Republican candidate in the 2014 general election.