In order for our community to move forward and make our communities more safe, we need a fair justice system that works for everyone. When someone pays the price for a non-violent crime they committed, we need to give them the opportunity to find a job and provide for themselves -- as opposed to remaining on government assistance or returning to crime. When we give people a path to rehabilitation, their lives improve and everyone becomes safer.
In Congress, I will propose specific legislation and funding mechanisms to lower recidivism rates and make our communities safe for everyone:
Make LEAP Program Permanent: The Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP) Program provides $10 million in pilot grants to put career services directly into local jails to prepare individuals for employment while they are incarcerated. The Department of Labor should make this program permanent to provide for long term partnerships with local jails.
Ban the Box: By passing the Fair Chance Act, Congress can give offenders an opportunity to reenter the workforce. The legislation helps people with a criminal record by prohibiting federal agencies and federal contractors from requesting criminal background information before a conditional offer is made. When you give someone a shot at a job, they are able to go out and legally provide for themselves and their families.
Rights Restorations: There are currently 1.6 million Floridians without the right to vote; that is 9 percent of the state's population. We must approve a constitutional amendment here in Florida that automatically restores the rights of non-violent offenders who paid their dues. Rights restoration will give more than a million people their voices back and allow them to become invested in making our system work.
Judicial Discretion: Our country currently jails more people than any other country in the world. Over 50% of our federal prison population is incarcerated on drug offenses, many of them serving decades in prison for minor drug offenses. By strengthening the court's judicial discretion powers, a judges can pass down sentences that fit the crime. Adopting sensible sentencing practices will reduce the burden placed on the penal system and tax payers, while also letting people get back to work once they have paid their dues.
Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015: By reauthorizing the Second Chance Act, we can expand on programs that help our communities' criminal rehabilitation efforts. However, some additional changes to this legislation should be adopted to expand on previous accomplishments:
DOJ Funding for Local Reentry Partnership Programs- Currently, the Department of Justice's Smart Reentry Grant provides funding to state and local governments for more effective reentry programs. By amending the rules to allow grants to be awarded to community organizations that partner with these state and local governments to provides reentry services, we can better help people successfully reintegrate into society.
Establish Grants for Non-Profit Recidivism Reduction- Establish a federal grant to fund non-profit organizations who go into local jails and direct inmates to diversion and housing services. By identifying offenders and directing them to diversion programs as early as possible, it can empower offenders to turn their lives around after one or two arrests, rather than after years in the penal system.