– Amends the federal criminal code to provide a process for the sealing or expungement of records relating to nonviolent criminal or juvenile offenses. This act requires a court considering a petition to seal a nonviolent offense to factor the harm caused to the petitioner including being able to secure and maintain employment in the assessment.
– Amends the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) to remove offenses relating to possession or use of a controlled substance from the categories of drug offenses that result in the convicted individual being ineligible for assistance under: (1) a state program funded with temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) grants under part A of title IV of the Social Security Act; or (2) the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program) or any state program carried out under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.
The Dream Act prohibits the denial of such assistance and benefits if the convicted individual: (1) has completed, is participating in, or agrees to enroll in a substance abuse treatment program; (2) is a custodial parent; (3) is suffering from a serious illness; (4) is pregnant; or (5) is in compliance with the terms of a sentence imposed for the conviction. Includes employment services among the categories of federal benefits that are not to be denied under PRWORA.
– Includes limitations on involuntary room confinements at juvenile detention facilities.
– Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to allow the Department of Justice (DOJ), in awarding public safety and community policing grants, to give preferential consideration to an applicant in a state with laws similar to this Act.
– Directs DOJ to establish procedures for the prompt release of accurate records exchanged for employment-related purposes through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s background check system. Requires DOJ to: (1) obtain the consent of an individual to whom a record pertains as a condition to exchanging records with an entity requesting the information for employment, housing, or credit application purposes; and (2) allow individuals to challenge the accuracy and completeness of their records.
– Prohibits exchanges of records regarding: (1) an arrest more than two years before a record request if the record does not also include the disposition of that arrest; (2) non-serious offenses, such as drunkenness, vagrancy, loitering, disturbing the peace, or curfew violations; or (3) circumstances that are not clearly arrests or dispositions.
The Redeam Act could offer opportunities in life for many non-violent drug offenders who’s lives at this time are dead-ended due to criminal records and lack of access to government programs that would help them to get on their feet. Criminal records not only compromise employment opportunities and make it more difficult for addicts to succeed in recovery, but the standard operating procedure of including a laundry list of offenses – all for one activity – often makes defendants look like far worse ‘criminals’ than they are. Criminal Complaints may look sinister, listing many charges for the purpose of negotiating harsher plea agreements, or negating the possibility that a defendant would take the chance of going to trial. These charges remain on public records, and although they may be designated as ‘dismissed’ can still have a chilling effect on employment or many other aspects of life for the defendant.
While it would be preferable for criminal charges not to filed at all in regard to non-violent drug users, the Redeem Act would offer an avenue for expungement or sealing of records. For far too long, those who are arrested for drug use have been permanently penalized with records accessible to the public – including potential employers – that compromised opportunities far after the individual’s issues.
The Redeem Act also removes the horrific impact of loss of public benefits for drug offenders. Criminal records, combined with restrictions on federal student loans for those with drug convictions unnecessarily diminishes opportunities for those in recovery, or with drug related records. If continuing education is foreclosed to these individuals, risks of relapse and future crime are significantly increased. While it may seem justified to punish drug users, denying benefits to addicts escalates crime and makes it nearly impossible for addicts to get back on their feet, particularly when criminal justice mandates include huge fees and fines, and mandated programs and criminal records make it difficult for a recovering addict to get back on his or her feet. Availability of benefits will decrease crime and increase the probability that offenders will become productive, tax-paying citizens.