By Charlie Barr | The Save Jersey Blog
Cory Booker (D-Twitter), a potential contender for the 2016 Vice Presidential short list, recently teamed up with Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a potential 2016 Presidential Candidate to introduce (and at the same time make a pretty large political statement) the REDEEM Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment). The Act targets the United States’ criminal justice system in regards to non-violent crimes.
Non-violent crimes, as Paul points out, is about the war on drugs; not the type of non-violent crime where some sort of theft or other crime that physically violates the rights of another individual are at odds.
The Act attempts to give Americans who commit these non-violent crimes a second chance, especially children who are convicted before they become 18. It also allows adults a broader opportunity to expunge these records and allows the FBI background check to provide relevant information. In other words, a “crime” of using or possessing drugs wouldn’t prevent an employer from hiring someone.
Both Booker and Paul suggest that targeting the criminal justice system in such a way would improve the economy. And in reality- it wouldn’t hurt it. People who were unfairly barred from a job because of the simple act of possessing or using drugs due to the harsh conditions of the current criminal justice system would be afforded a second chance. Theoretically, that would expand the workforce and the amount of people that could potentially be hired for a job.
This past week, Jeff Bell, Republican candidate for NJ Senate and Cory Booker’s only hurdle to becoming a solid VP contender, expressed his distaste for the Act. He explained that employers deserved to know the criminal history of anyone they hire.
Bell is absolutely correct in saying that employers deserve to know the criminal activity of a potential hire- because they do, and they should. But he assumes that possessing and using drugs are the “crime.” After all, that is what the REDEEM Act targets- drug related, non-violent crimes. The drug offenders that Bell refers to are individuals who are and should be free to make personal decisions about drugs in the same way that individuals make personal decisions about alcohol and tobacco. They shouldn’t be treated like murderers, rapist, or thieves, who violate others rights.
Those are the people that employers deserve to know about. That is when little red flags should go off in background checks.
If someone wants to destroy their own body with a drug of their choosing and can show up and perform their job the next day, good for them. That’s what individual liberty is all about: making decisions that you and I would probably decide against. If you want to label those decisions as stupidity, absent-mindedness, trolling, etc., then go right ahead. I won’t disagree. But stupidity, absent-mindedness, and trolling are all things that are commonplace in life, and especially in politics. There’s no need to have a little red flag for that. There’s no need to deny a simple, minimum wage job for that. There’s no need to destroy a kid’s future for that.
Booker and Paul aren’t changing the arbitrary power of government with this law- the flags still go off for murderers, rapists, and thieves- but they are aiming to reduce it. While it may not be to the complete satisfaction of all sides since drugs are still illegal, it aims to reduce the imprint of government in an area that it doesn’t need to be involved with. It also aims to give people a second chance that didn’t deserve the first to be taken away.
Save Jerseyans, it’s hard deny that both Booker and Paul are aiming to boost their prospects at some sort of higher office, while clearly trying to buoy their chances at re-election. This bipartisanship does, however, highlight a reflection of the shifting dynamic in America between “drug offenders” and those who wish pursue individual liberty in both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
I mean, Booker… and Paul? They are complete 180 degree opposites on about every issue. Who would have thought that they would team up to reduce government? That’s why Jeff Bell’s proclamation that he is turned off by any criminal justice reform clearly isn’t the best move on his part.
While Booker and Paul ride the wave of protecting liberty, Bell defies it. That doesn’t mean that Booker isn’t beatable, nor does it mean he is a friend of liberty’s. It simply means that Bell should not have attacked Booker (and indirectly attacked Paul) on an issue that has, for the most part, bipartisan and nation-wide support.