How Many States Are Re-Examining Legal Roadblocks For Ex-Offenders


An estimated 70 million people try to live with criminal records, says the National Employment Law Project. Some states, concerned with the high costs of keeping people locked up, are reevaluating and removing some of the roadblocks that ex-offenders face, Stateline reports. The goal is to increase the chances they'll succeed in society and lessen the chances they'll return to prison. The American Bar Association says 45,000 laws restrict people with criminal records, ranging from 300 in Vermont to 1,800 in California. These “collateral consequences” can bar people with certain convictions from public housing, from voting and from certain jobs, such as veterinarians, real estate agents or other occupations that require state licenses. Many states are re-examining the consequences of the laws and taking other steps to reduce the collateral damage of having a criminal record.

Seventeen states have adopted “ban the box” statutes that bar public employers from asking about criminal history on their job applications. Since 2009, nine states and the District of Columbia have begun to give ex-offenders so-called certificates of rehabilitation that say the person has completed prison time, played by the rules since being released or would be suitable for employment. The goal is to help ex-offenders get a job. Many states have relied on expunging or sealing the records of those convicted of some misdemeanors and minor felonies to help give them a fresh start. Lawyer Richard Cassidy of Vermont does not favor expungement laws, saying, “I don't think they work well this day and age because if you get convicted today, that will be all over the Web tomorrow. No one can make that go away.”

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