U.S. Senator Patrick J. Leahy clicked a mouse Wednesday and opened the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction to the public at ceremony conducted at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.
The new web site, available here, will collect — for the very first time — the thousands of rules and statutes, state and federal, that apply to persons because they have been convicted of a crime.
The site, which is not yet complete, is the product of a pains-taking legal research effort conducted under the auspices of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association. The work is supported by a grant from National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice, and was mandated by an amendment sponsored by Senator Leahy to the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007.
Data for 9 states — Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and Vermont – is available on the site at present. A brilliant team of diligent young lawyers under the leadership Margaret Colgate Love, an experienced Washington lawyer who focuses her practice in executive clemency and restoration of rights, and sentencing and corrections policy, continues to review and analyze statutes and regulations to complete the work. It is anticipated that the Inventory will be finished by December of 2013.
So far the work suggests the ultimately some 40,000 separate collateral consequences will be identified. More than half of them affect employment or licensing opportunities. The balance include business opportunities, housing and residency, public benefits (including grants and loans), family relationships, education, motor vehicle licensure and registration and civic participation.
The website describes each consequence, identifies who it is imposed on, and for how long, and specifies whether any relief from the consequence is permitted.
It was my great privilege to introduce Senator Leahy at the ceremony. Senator Leahy’s remarks are available through his official web site, “Patrick Leahy, United States Senator for Vermont.”
Margy Love gave a brief tour of the website, demonstrating that by searching the word “electrician” in the State of Texas, one learns that a person having been convicted on any crime in Texas is ineligible for an apprentice electrician’s license. 16 TAC § 73.27 Texas law never relieves this consequence, unless the convicted person receives a Governor’s pardon.
Other speakers included the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Justice, Greg Ridgeway, Ph.D., the Chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association, William N. Shepard, the President and CEO of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Jo-Ann Wallace, and a Staff Attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Daryl V. Atkins.
Daryl Atkins described the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services’ ground breaking effort to inventory and analyze North Carolina’s collateral consequences, (the Collateral Consequence Assessment Tool (C-CAT)) which provided a critical model for the National Inventory.
Even more important, Daryl put a human face on the problem acknowledging that in 1996, he pled guilty to a non-violent drug crime. Daryl served 40 months in prison. He noted that even now, some twelve years after his release from prison, he would be unable to vote if he returned to live in his home state, Alabama. Daryl demonstrated that he is a true champion for formerly incarcerated persons and criminal justice reform.
My own commitment to this issue began some 10 years ago, when the ABA Criminal Justice Section presented its ABA Standard Criminal Justice Standard on Collateral Sanctions and Discretionary Disqualification of Convicted Persons for consideration of the ABA House of Delegates. I am proud to say that I proposed that the Uniform Law Commission establish a committee to study the idea of a Uniform Law on the subject, which ultimately led to the promulgation of the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act. The National Inventory will facilitate the widespread adoption of the UCCCA.
Wednesday’s website launch was a welcome moment of celebration for many who understand that while the information alone is not the end of the road, it is a milestone in a long effort to rationalize state and federal policy on this critical issue.
My thanks go out to Senator Leahy and to everyone who, by dint of hard work and commitment, has contributed to taking this important step along the way.