By CSG Justice Center Staff
Collateral consequences are penalties buried in various laws that can limit or prohibit people convicted of crimes from finding work, accessing housing, and otherwise impact their rights and benefits that can help them to rebuild their lives.
The new National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction resource, launched today by the National Reentry Resource Center and the CSG Justice Center, compiles thousands of state and federal statutes into a searchable database, making it easier to identify these obscure regulations that can be triggered by a particular conviction.
“When a person leaves prison or jail, it is critical that they be given an opportunity to succeed,” said Justice Michael Boggs of the Georgia Supreme Court. “Public safety is improved by ensuring successful reentry. However, there are more than 40,000 provisions in state and federal law that stand in their way right out of the gate. The first step to making meaningful change is understanding these barriers. This resource does just that, and it provides the information in a way that’s easy to navigate.”
Collateral consequences create a range of impediments to a person’s successful reentry into society, which includes restricting access to education and housing, depending on the state and the conviction. More than half of these consequences of conviction also affect employability, either directly or by creating barriers to obtaining occupational licenses for certain jobs. About half of these employment-related consequences—which most prominently impact industries like healthcare, child and elder care, education, finance and transportation—are mandatory and must be imposed where a person has been convicted of a disqualifying offense.
“It’s amazing how, in the midst of helping people reenter society, we’re often flying blind when it comes to understanding some of things they’re up against. A lot of the time, the people who are responsible for the enforcement of these regulatory sanctions aren’t even aware of them,” said John Wetzel (pictured left), secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and chair of the CSG Justice Center Board of Directors. “This database launched today gives us a clear view into these obstacles in each state, which will help us navigate the reentry process and, in some cases, could lead to policy change.”
The website, which will be maintained by the CSG Justice Center and is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, offers a database that is searchable by relevant components of the consequence including offense categories, fields of employment, and jurisdiction. The website also offers additional news and resources related to reentry.