I’ve complained for years that Congress never tries to do anything to fix our unbelievably broken criminal justice system, mostly because there’s no moneyed constituency to pay them to do it. Rand Paul and Corey Booker are teaming up in the Senate with legislation that would at least be a tiny step in the right direction.
Meet the Senate’s newest odd couple: Sens. Cory Booker and Rand Paul.
The duo of high-profile, first-term senators — one a New Jersey Democrat who came to Capitol Hill on Twitter-fueled national fame, the other a Kentucky Republican mulling a presidential bid in 2016 — will roll out legislation that comprehensively overhauls the U.S. criminal justice system.
The measure, called the REDEEM Act, has several pillars: It encourages states to change policies so children are directed away from the adult criminal justice system; automatically expunges or seals — depending on their age — criminal records of juveniles who committed nonviolent crimes; and limits solitary confinement of children, except in rare circumstances.
The legislation also creates a path for adults with nonviolent offenses to seal their criminal records and restores food stamp and welfare benefits for low-level drug offenders who have served their sentences.
That’s all well and good and I certainly hope it passes, but it barely scratches the surface of the problems that need to be fixed. It certainly isn’t anything remotely close to a “comprehensive overhaul.” A real comprehensive overhaul would need to address police brutality and misconduct (every single police officer in the country should wear a video recorder at all times when on duty), prosecutorial misconduct, overcharging, the virtually useless public defender system, pseudoscience masquerading as forensics, the racist patterns of law enforcement, the handling of eyewitness testimony and police lineups, DNA evidence and a dozen other things.