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State Reforms Reducing Collateral Consequences for People with Criminal Records: 2011-2012 Legislative Round-Up

September 25, 2012
This report documents reforms regarding collateral consequences enacted and introduced throughout the country during the 2012 legislative session. The report was a collaboration with The Sentencing Project, ACLU, Crossroad Bible Institute, National Employment Law Project, and the National H.I.R.E. Network.

Over the past forty years the prison population in the United States has skyrocketed 600% and the number of Americans with felony convictions has grown to 19.8 million adults or 8.6% of the adult population. According to thNational e Employment Law Project (NELP), an estimated 65 million Americans have a criminal record.

Although it might be reasonable to assume that individuals who have completed their sentences are free from conviction-related constraints, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, the American Bar Association (ABA) has identified over 38,000 penalties, called collateral consequences that can impact people long after they complete their criminal sentence.

Collateral consequences are the additional penalties tied to a conviction that greatly impact an individual’s capacity to engage politically, economically and socially upon their reentry to society. These consequences include barriers to housing, education, and employment, felony disenfranchisement, and ineligibility for public benefits. Collateral consequences are distinct from direct consequences of convictions in that they are not factored into the calculation of punishment or sentencing, and are triggered outside the jurisdiction of the courts.

Nationwide, there is a growing bipartisan awareness of the long-term negative impact of collateral consequences and states are taking steps to combat the ill effects of these sanctions. During 2012, legislation was championed by Republican and Democratic state lawmakers to scale back the collateral consequences of convictions. This report documents the important reforms enacted and introduced throughout the country during the 2012 legislative session.

To read the report, download the PDF below.

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