An American Bar Association commission has developed a comprehensive set of policy recommendations on
offender reentry that are aimed at reducing recidivism and giving convicts a second chance. The National District Attorneys Association endorsed most recommendations, including those that encourage greater use of community-based alternatives to prison for all but the most serious offenders, and graduated sanctions for parole and probation violations, says former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret Love, the consulting director to the Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions.
The DA joined the commision in urging greater use of deferred adjudication and diversion options that allow an offender to avoid both prison and a conviction record. NDAA backed urging jurisdictions to limit access to and use of criminal records for non-law enforcement purposes, and to restrict the activities of private screening companies. NDAA agreed to urge training all criminal justice professionals in the use of discretion. The ABA unit suggets a comprehensive approach to employment of people with convictions, asking public employers to eliminate unreasonable legal barriers to jobs and licenses, and to give offenders an opportunity to demonstrate their fitness for a particular position. It proposes a two-stage process by which employers can be assured that a convicted person has been rehabilitated, and protected against negligent hiring suits. The National Legal Aid and Defender Association has endorsed the recommendations, including one urging that both defenders and prosecutors pay more attention to the collateral consequences of conviction even in early stages of a prosecution. The recommendations will be presented to the ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates in February. The panel is co-chaired by former Illinois Gov. James Thompson and law Professor Stephen Saltzburg of George Washington University.