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Bipartisan Bill Aims to Help Low-Level Drug Offenders Re-Enter Society

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Jail Cell With Open Door

A Senate bill sponsored by a Democrat and Republican who normally are on opposite ends of the political spectrum aims to help low-level drug offenders re-enter society. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, are co-sponsors of The REDEEM Act.

The bill is designed to shift the focus away from punishing low-level drug offenders, MSNBC reports. It would reform criminal background checks and the juvenile justice system. Criminal records for teenage offenders would be sealed, and adults could apply to have their records expunged.

The REDEEM Act would limit how long a person must answer employer questions about past convictions. Job applicants with a criminal record, even for low-level offenses, often find it difficult to find employment, the article notes. The act would also repeal the ban on federal welfare benefits for people convicted of non-violent drug violations who complete substance abuse treatment.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to reduce terms for low-level drug traffickers who are already incarcerated. More than 46,000 drug offenders will be eligible for early release from prison. The sentences could be reduced by an average of more than two years, unless Congress stops the plan by November 1.

Each offender’s petition will be considered individually by federal judges. None of them will be released before November 1, 2015.

In April, the Commission voted to reduce the base offense for criminals caught with various amounts of drugs. The new vote makes the reduced sentencing guidelines retroactive for most drug traffickers.

4 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Jim Dickey
    Jim Dickey / August 4, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    The two drugs which cause the most harm (and death) in our society are alcohol and tobacco. Approximately half of all tobacco smokers will die as a result of being addicted to that drug. There are no commonly used illicit drugs which can compare with the harm tobacco causes. From NIDA: Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States (http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cigarettes-other-tobacco-products). If you understand addiction then you know “When you can stop you don’t want to, and when you want to stop, you can’t (Luke Davies). An addicted person is aware their behavior is causing problems in their lives but is unable to control their drug seeking and using. Before they can change, they must be highly motivated and discover tools to use to help them through periods of craving. This includes people who sell drugs. Because drug prices are artificially inflated due to the War on Drugs, people will do what they have to do to maintain their addictions, including selling drugs. Before we start imprisoning or killing every smoker who gives someone else a cigarette, or every addict who sells illicit drugs, maybe we could spend a little time encouraging them to transition from using to abstinence.

  2. Jim Dickey / August 4, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    It is clear, when you look at the evidence, that punishing people for using drugs is neither helping them to stop using illegal drugs nor dissuading others to avoid drug use. The 2010 Monitoring the Future survey ( http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2013.pdf) found that 48.2% of 12th graders had tried illicit drugs at some point in their lives. Destroying or damaging the lives of those unlucky enough to have been caught is illogical and hurtful to both the individuals and to society. The more productive individuals are, and the greater their involvement with society is, the healthier the society becomes. If we look at countries which have decriminalized drugs and/or adopted harm reduction policies, like Holland and Switzerland and parts of Germany, we see they have experienced large drops in the levels of drug related crimes, have improved the quality of life of those addicted to drugs and have spent much less on their interactions with drug users. It’s time for our government and our society to stop playing God and do what’s best for the country and all of us who are affected by drug use.

  3. Mark Hogge / August 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    The drugs laws and incarceration rate in this country far surpass any other country in the world.Many police dept,’s I speak from exspireince are so concerned with arrest numbers that many people are just caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.I live in an area of city with ramppent drug use and sales,am in recovery for just under 4 years, studying to be a counselor but because i decided to go into the wrong store at the wrong time I am fighting a case that unfortinatly will effect my future and potentionally many clients who could benefit from my help

  4. Rudolph Pazdernik / July 31, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Finally some common sense in the field of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Having worked in a treatment center, I realize how difficult it was to find jobs for persons arrested for minor drug offenses. No wonder so many of them went back out. If congress has any sense, this bill will pass with flying colors.

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