Sixty-five million people in the United States have a criminal record, and the consequences of their actions–no matter how small or far in the past–follow them for life with little relief, says the NACDL, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which details the restrictions in a new report. Ex-offenders can loose voting rights, access to housing, jobs and schools, greatly affecting their ability to re-enter society as a contributing member, with a patchwork of laws and oversight on how employer, landlords and others can use information from criminal records.
The report complies testimony from 150 witnesses from hearings in cities across the country and lays out the collateral consequences participants still face decades after a crime was committed–or in some cases even when the conviction was vacated. Examples included a mother who was could not volunteer at her children’s school because of a convictions 15 years prior, to a boiler engineer being allowed to return to his career after his employer found about a conviction 25 years in the past.
The report recommended ways in which these collateral convictions can be mitigated so people with criminal records can successfully reintegrate into society. Some ideas include restoring full restoration of rights upon completion of sentence, limiting the access of criminal records for non-law enforcement use and encouraging landlords and employers to work with people with a criminal record. The report also highlighted states that have taken steps to reduce the damage of collateral consequences.
Read the full report here.