Last Sunday’s New York Times Editorial, “How to Cut Prison Costs,” (The New York Times, November 11, 2012) rightly highlighted the problems presented by the collateral consequences of conviction as a “regulatory thicket that denies access to society,” for persons with criminal records.
The editorial specifically identified the new American Bar Association National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, noting that it catalogs some 38,000 statutes and regulations “almost 700 per state and territory – that make it difficult, if not impossible, for ex-offenders to do all the things they need to do to pursue viable lives: vote, get jobs, obtain driver’s licenses, and a whole range of items that would help them rejoin the mainstream.” The online version of the editorial even contained a link allowing readers to click through to the NICCC, should you wish to take a look for yourself at what consequences have been imposed in the 9 states where the study is complete.
That’s not to say that public awareness of this issue is anywhere near where it needs to be. It’s a natural enough reaction to news of some new crime to urge policy makers to close the barn door, to prevent some criminal from causing further harm.
Most people don’t realize that, as a society, we have already closed so many barn doors that persons with a record of conviction are left with few options for living law-abiding lives. Without getting that point, people and policy-makers can’t be expected to understand that we need to think about this issue on comprehensive basis. The Times Editorial is another step on the long road to reform.
Another step will occur Monday at 1:00 PM. As part of its CLE Premier Speaker Series, the American Bar Association will sponsor a free-for-members 75-minute webinar entitled “Retribution, Rehabilitation, or Justice?” My colleagues Mathias Heck, a prosecutor from Dayton, Ohio, Margaret Colgate Love, a leading authority on this subject who practices pardon law in Washington DC, Jo-Ann Wallace, the President and CEO of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, Stephen A. Saltzburg the Wallace and Beverly Woodbury University Professor of Law at George Washington University, and I, will present. We intend to describe the problem, the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, and describe the issues collateral consequences present for practitioners and policy makers. If you are an ABA Member, you can register for a free 1.5 or 1.8 hours of CLE here (depending on where you are licensed).