A Minnesota teenager had a record of skipping school. According to the St. Peter Herald, law enforcement caught up with the young man a few months ago at a soccer practice and arrested him in front of his peers and coaches. After violating his probation again, the young man was sentenced to spend three weeks at a correctional facility. Now, the teenager has graduated high school and told fellow students in his commencement speech that his past will not define his future.
That sentiment is exactly the point of the Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act, a piece of proposed legislation that seeks to help people who have been convicted of non-violent crimes.
The effects of juvenile crimes can follow people for years, preventing them from securing employment or finding suitable housing. The REDEEM Act seeks to rectify that through providing the following:
- Records for juveniles who have committed non-violent crimes before the age of 15 will be expunged.
- Records for juveniles who commit non-violent crimes after the age of 15 will be sealed.
- People who have served their time for crimes involving the use, distribution and possession of controlled substances will regain access to welfare benefits that may have been stripped, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
One of the biggest advantages of the legislation is that it would prevent employers from accessing information that is irrelevant or inaccurate, thus giving people with certain criminal backgrounds a fair chance at obtaining employment.
Raising the age of responsibility
Another key aspect of the REDEEM Act is that it encourages states to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, which would keep juveniles out of harsh adult correction facilities. In Minnesota, juveniles, younger than 14, cannot be tried in criminal court. Some states have already considered raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18, noting its long-term financial benefits. For example, the North Carolina Youth Accountability Planning Task Force found that the state would save as much as $52.3 million due to recidivism, eliminating costs associated with juveniles moving up to the adult criminal system. Additionally, there is an increase in lifetime earnings for youth who do not have the burden of a criminal record.
The REDEEM Act will enable juveniles to get their lives back on track, pursuing employment without having to worry about their criminal history getting in the way. So far, there seems to be little opposition to the REDEEM Act, which offers rays of hope for both youth and adults who have non-violent criminal convictions. Anyone with questions regarding the legislation should consult with an attorney.