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Collateral damage occurs in any war, including America's "War on Crime." Ironically, our zealous efforts to keep communities safe may have actually destabilized and divided them. The vast expansion of the nation's criminal legal system over the past 40 years has produced a corresponding increase in the number of people with a criminal record. One study estimated that around 77.7 million individuals - nearly one out of every three American adults - have a criminal record. At the same time, the collateral consequences of conviction have become more severe, more public and more permanent. These consequences affect virtually every aspect of human endeavor, including employment and licensing, housing, education, public benefits, credit and loans, immigration status, parental rights, interstate travel, and even volunteer opportunities. Collateral consequences can be a defendant's most serious punishment, permanently relegating a person to second-class status. An arrest alone can lead to permanent loss of opportunity.
It is time to reverse this course. It is time to recognize that America's infatuation with collateral consequences has produced unprecedented and unnecessary collateral damage to society and to the justice system. It is time to celebrate the magnificent human potential for growth and redemption. It is time to move from the era of collateral consequences to the era of restoration of rights and status.
"The country was built on the belief that each human being has limitless potential and worth. Everybody matters. We believe that even those who have struggled with a dark past can find brighter days ahead. One way we act on that belief is by helping former prisoners who've paid for their crimes -- we help them build new lives as productive members of our society."
- Former President, George W. Bush
"Ban the Box" - Fair chance hiring policies help to remove barriers to employment by prohibiting an employer from inquiring into an applicant's criminal background until after a conditional offer of employment. The best "ban the box" policies do the following: (1) are applied statewide; (2) apply to both public and private employers; and (3) have standards limiting criminal history inquiries to recent convictions with a business nexus to the job.
Expungement/Sealing - Expungement results in deletion of any record that an arrest or criminal conviction ever occurred. A sealed record is removed from general review; the record still exists and can be reviewed under limited circumstances.
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Supported by NFCJ
Occupational Licensing - Reforms regulating the consideration of a criminal record by occupational licensing agencies.
Restoration of Voting Rights - An estimated 5.8 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of a felony conviction. Laws vary between states with some states permanently disenfranchising all people with felony convictions to states that restore voting rights upon completion of their sentence. Maine and Vermont are the only states that do not disenfranchise people with criminal convictions.
Clemency & Pardons - Clemency is the power of a Governor to commute a prison sentence to a lesser term than was initially imposed. A pardon is a form of clemency meant to indicate forgiveness of a crime.
Recent years have seen a national, bipartisan movement towards criminal justice reform that seeks to promote successful reentry and remove the collateral consequences of conviction faced by returning citizens. Across the country, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are supporting policies designed to improve reentry outcomes, including expanding expungement eligibility and record sealing, easing restrictions on occupational licensing, and working to reduce unnecessary barriers to the successful reentry of people returning from periods of incarceration. As the Collateral Consequences Resource Center's 2019 annual report states, the United States has seen "an extraordinarily fruitful period of law reform... one that began around 2013 and has continued to gather steam into 2020." In 2019, 43 states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia enacted 153 laws aimed at lessening the many obstacles to voting, employment, and many other areas of daily life that formerly incarcerated individuals face. These reforms included laws that restored eligibility for voting, jury service, and public office, streamlined record-clearing laws, regulated occupational licensing, and automated record relief, among others.
Consider joining NACDL’s State Criminal Justice Network (SCJN) to exchange information, share resources, and develop strategies for promoting criminal justice policies that offer meaningful second chances for formerly incarcerated individuals.
The Driving for Opportunity Act of 2021 (H.R.2453/S. 998), sponsored by Sen. Chris Coones (D-DE) and Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), would authorize federal funding to cover the costs of reinstating drivers’ licenses in states that end debt-based driver’s license suspensions. In March 2021, NACDL signed onto a coalition letter endorsing the legislation and highlighting the ways in which driver’s license suspensions trap people into a cycle of escalating debt, diminished employment, and family hardship, with a disproportionate impact on people of color. NACDL is also supporting the Kenneth P. Thompson Begin Again Act (H.R. 1942), introduced by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Van Taylor (R-TX). This bill would expand expungement eligibility for individuals charged with simple drug possession by removing the requirement that such individuals were under 21 years old at the time of the offense in question. Visit NACDL’s Legislative Action Center to urge your federal elected officials to embrace second chances and support H.R. 1924.
NACDL is proud to have several projects aimed at examining the collateral consequences of these convictions. The goal is to provide policy recommendations and laud existing best practices that jurisdictions can engage in to effectively decrease the economic, political, and social stigmas associated with a criminal conviction.
Coalition Building to Restore Rights & Status
Free to Drive Coalition - Convened by the Fines & Fees Justice Center and Civil Rights Corps, the Free to Drive Coalition (of which NACDL is a member) is committed to the principle that restrictions on driving privileges - including suspensions, revocations, or renewals of driver's licenses or registration - should never be used to coerce debt payment or punish people who don't appear in court.
Fully Free: The Campaign to End Permanent Punishments - NACDL is a coalition partner of Fully Free: The Campaign to End Permanent Punishments. The campaign works to dismantle "the prison after the prison," the long-lasting barriers to housing, employment, education, civic engagement, and more faced by the estimated 3.3 million adults in Illinois who have been arrested or convicted of a crime.
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A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence: A Trial Practice Handbook for Criminal Defense Attorneys
This Guide to Federal Evidence is the only federal evidence handbook written exclusively for criminal defense lawyers. The Guide analyzes each Federal Rule of Evidence and outlines the main evidentiary issues that confront criminal defense lawyers. It also summarizes countless defense favorable cases and provides tips on how to avoid common evidentiary pitfalls. The Guide contains multiple user-friendly flowcharts aimed at helping the criminal defense lawyer tackle evidence problems. A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence is an indispensable tool in preparing a case for trial.
Modern Digital Evidence & Technologies in Criminal Cases
Modern cases need modern defenses, and modern lawyers can't practice with an outdated playbook. This program is a contemporary training that identifies emerging technologies and digital evidence encountered in today's criminal cases and arms you with the tools necessary to combat expert witnesses, prosecutorial overreach, and an uneducated judge and jury. This comprehensive CLE program covers both general aspects of new technologies as well as practical courtroom application and legal challenges to the use of these new technologies.
Top Shelf DUI Defenses: The Law, The Science, The Techniques (2021)
If you are serious about being an effective DUI defense advocate, or if you’re considering adding DUI defenses to your portfolio, you need to know the latest scientific and legal strategies to optimize your success at trial. Learn from the best-of-the-best in the field in this unique CLE Program, updated for 2021.
Defending Modern Drug Cases (2021)
From challenging the arrest and seizure to picking a jury and cross-examining police officers, defense attorneys handling drug cases must be able to construct a defense that will increase the chances of the client getting a positive result for your client.
Effective motion practice, juror selection, and storytelling have never been more important. This seminar will introduce defense counsel to techniques that have been used at recent drug trials to rebut specific claims and overcome the emotion created in today’s criminal legal system.
Justice for Work Coalition - Convened by the R Street Institute, Justice for Work (of which NACDL is a member) is a coalition of organizations spanning the political spectrum with a mission to lower the barriers that unfairly restrict economic participation for those caught up in the justice system.
Restoration of Rights Project
The Restoration of Rights Project (RP) is a free online resource that includes summaries and analyses of state and federal law relating to restoration of rights and status following arrest or conviction. Maintained and regularly updated by the Collateral Consequences Resource Center (CCRC), the RRP covers four primary topics: civil and firearms rights; pardons; expungement and other record relief; and employment and licensing. A national page summarizes each jurisdiction’s laws, state-by-state profiles provide in-depth information, and 50-state comparison pages include charts and state-by-state summaries. CCRC’s work on the RRP and its derivative projects is supported by a grant from Arnold Ventures.
On August 23–25, 2018, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) hosted its 17th Annual State Criminal Justice Network (SCJN) Conference and 2nd Annual Presidential Summit in Atlanta, Georgia — Shattering the Shackles of Collateral Consequences: Exploring Moral Principles and Economic Innovations to Restore Rights and Opportunity. On June 4, 2019, NACDL released its conference report and videos of the conference.
On Thursday May 29, 2014, NACDL launched Collateral Damage America's Failure to Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime - A Roadmap to Restore Rights and Status After Arrest or Conviction.
Over 100 people attended the report launch. Poignant testimony was provided by Lamont Carey, a business owner and individual with a conviction; several policy analysts; former Governor Robert Ehrlich; former Congressman J.C. Watts; and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik who also has a conviction on his record.
Do you know that April is recognized as Second Chance Month?
Second Chance Month is a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the obstacles faced by over 70 million Americans with a criminal record and unlock opportunities for them to succeed. Since its inception in 2017, NACDL has been activitely involved in hosting activities and providing opportunities for its members to become engaged.
- "Oregon ramps up its clemency, record relief, and resentencing programs,"
- "Republicans may roll back automatic restoration of rights later this month,"
- "Banned From Jobs: People Released From Prison Fight Laws That Keep Punishing Them.,"
Restoration of Rights News Releases
News Release ~ 06/28/2017
Joint Announcement: Restoration of Rights Project -- The Collateral Consequences Resource Center and its partner organizations, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and the National HIRE Network, are pleased to announce the launch of the newly expanded and fully updated Restoration of Rights Project.
News Release ~ 12/21/2015
Nation's Criminal Defense Bar Praises New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's "Historic" Blanket Pardon Affecting Thousands of Non-Violent, Former Teenage Offenders -- Washington, DC (Dec. 21, 2015) – Today, the Office of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo officially announced a plan to pardon many thousands of people who were convicted of a misdemeanor or a non-violent felony at the age of 16 or 17, but who have had no other convictions since. The criteria that applicants must meet are provided here.
News Release ~ 10/01/2015
Bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act Introduced; Nation's Criminal Defense Bar Calls Certain Provisions "An Important Move In The Right Direction" -- Washington, DC (Oct. 1, 2015) – This morning, in action unprecedented in recent decades, a broadly bipartisan group of U.S. Senators announced the introduction of the "Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act," a bill that appears to include certain provisions aimed at reversing America's overly harsh, overburdened and ineffective criminal justice system.
Restoration of Rights Media Items
De-Facto Disenfranchisement: Ensuring the Freedom to Vote in Jail
This discussion will be moderated by Blair Bowie, Legal Counsel and Restore Your Vote Manager at the Campaign Legal Center, and will feature Naila Awan, Director of Advocacy for the Prison Policy Initiative; Tatyana Hopkins, student at the UDC Law Youth Justice Clinic; and BeKura W. Shabazz, President of the Criminal Injustice Reform Network.
Free to Vote: Virginia Defender Resource Packet, Youth Justice Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and the Criminal Injustice Reform Network, October 2021.
Georgia Open Records Request Template, Youth Justice Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, October 2021.
Ballots for All: Holding Pennsylvania County Jails Accountable for Providing Ballot Access, All Voting is Local, September 2021.
Amending Our Anti-democratic Ways: The Criminal Justice System Must Stop Disenfranchising Children, Mae C. Quinn and Greg Leding, August 4, 2021.
Maryland HB 222 (Effective June 1, 2021)
Voting Behind Bars: Why Incarceration Should Not Limit the Right to Vote, Sanjana Manjeshwar, Berkely Political Review, May 21, 2021.
Enfranchisement for All: The Case for Ending Penal Disenfranchisement in Our Democracy, Naila Awan and Laura Williamson, Demos, March 2021.
Eligible, but excluded: A guide to removing the barriers to jail voting, Prison Policy Initiative and Rainbow PUSH Coalition, October 2020.
Systemic Inequality | Ballot Access Behind Bars, Robin Fisher, Fordham Law Review Online, 2020.
Many people in jail are eligible to vote. But casting a ballot behind bars isn't easy, Ryan W. Miller, USA Today, October 30, 2020.
Challenging Jail-Based Disenfranchisement: A Resource Guide for Advocates, Campaign Legal Center.
Case: Mays v. LaRose, litigated by Campaign Legal Center and Demos.
Unlock the Vote Arizona: Procedures for Jail-Based Voting by County, Arizona Coalition to End Jail-Based Disenfranchisement, July 2020.
Ballots for All: Ensuring Eligible Wisconsin Voters in Jail Have Equal Access to Voting, All Voting is Local and ACLU of Wisconsin, July 2020.
How to End De Facto Disenfranchisement in the Criminal Justice System, Naila Awan and Shruti Banerjee, Demos, May 2020.
Voting in Jails, The Sentencing Project, May 2020.
Jail as Polling Places: Living Up to the Obligation to Enfranchise the Voters We Jail, Dana Paikowsky, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 2019.
Know Your Rights: Voting in Jail, ACLU Virginia, October 2019.
Overcoming Barriers that Prevent Eligible Incarcerated People from Voting in Massachusetts, Ballots over Bars (now MASS POWER), October 2019.
Protecting the Voting Rights ot Americans Detained While Awaiting Trial, Danielle Root and Lee Doyle, Center for American Progress, August 2018.
Voting Behind Bars: An Argument for Voting by Prisoners, The Sentencing Project, June 2011.
Race + Criminal Legal System: Collateral Consequences Part II
In Part I of our discussion on Race and Collateral Consequences, we heard from our featured panelists just how the collateral consequences of a conviction – the specific legal barriers, generalized discrimination, and social stigma – have become more numerous and severe. Much like the Jim Crow Laws that relegated African Americans to a permanent and multi-generational underclass, collateral consequences stemming from criminal conviction can be an individual’s most serious punishment, permanently relegating a person to second-class status. In Part II of this discussion, we take a deep dive into how a past criminal conviction can impact an individual’s ability to participate in certain industries, e.g. the legal profession, the cannabis industry, and other business and entrepreneurship opportunities.
This webinar features Robert Patillo, Executive Director of the Rainbow PUSH Atlanta Peachtree Street Project (moderator); Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance; Kevin Garrett, Fellow at the Texas Jail Project; and Tracey Syphax, Author and Entrepreneur, From the Block to the Boardroom, LLC. Join us for this important discussion and hear from our speakers how over policing and over incarcerating communities of color, and using prior convictions to effectively restrict access to these professional opportunities serves to prevent the accumulation of wealth and power, thus continuing to marginalize these communities.
- Applying for SBA COVID-19 relief with a criminal record in 2021, Collateral Consequences Resource Center (March 2021)
- Two significant new occupational licensing laws enacted in 2021, Collateral Consequences Resource Center (February 2021)
- The Road to Cannabis Industry Equality, The Hoban Minute Podcast, Episode 91, featuring Jason Ortiz (July 2020)
- Formerly Incarcerated Businessowners Sue SBA for Denying Them COVID-19 Emergency Loans, The Appeal (June 2020)
- Equity Must Be at the Heart of Marijuana Legalization, ACLU (June 2019)
- From Prohibition to Progress: A Status Report on Marijuana Legalization, Drug Policy Alliance (January 2018)
- Deborah Rhode, Virtue and the Law: The Good Moral Character Requirement in Occupational Licensing, Bar Regulation, and Immigration Proceedings, 43 Law & Social Inquiry 1027 (2018)
- Prison to Proprietor: Entrepreneurship as a Re-Entry Strategy, FIELD at the Aspen Institute (September 2016)
- The Crippling Effect of Incarceration on Wealth, Prison Policy Institute (April 2016)
- Steven Slivinski, Turning Shackles into Bootstraps: Why Occupational Licensing Reform Is the Missing Piece of Criminal Justice Reform, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University no. 2016-01 (November 2016)
- From the Block to the Boardroom by Tracey Syphax
- 2020 JCMH Summit: Lived Experience Expert featuring Kevin Garrett, Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health (January 2021)
- Kevin Garrett at Texas Jail Project, Texas Jail Project (January 2021)
- Chris Vaughn, Good will of others puts Fort Worth native, 44, on path to redemption, Fort Worth Star Telegram (July 2011)
- Peer Voices, Texas Jail Project (2019-2020)
- Barriers to Rapidly Growing Professions State Fact Sheets, National Employment Law Project (December 2020)
- Fair Chance Licensing Reform: Opening Pathways for People with Records to Join Licensed Professions, National Employment Law Project (December 2019)
Race + Criminal Legal System: Collateral Consequences Part I
As Michelle Alexander observed in The New Jim Crow, “It is legal today to discriminate against individuals with criminal records in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of education opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal."
Much like the Jim Crow Laws that relegated African Americans to a permanent and multi-generational underclass, collateral consequences stemming from criminal convictions have decimated entire communities. The vast array of consequences imposed on those with criminal records has hit communities of color the hardest, largely due to disproportionate policing and prosecutorial practices within the criminal legal system.
This webinar features Cynthia W. Roseberry, Deputy Director for the National Policy Advocacy Department for the ACLU (moderator); Rob DeLeon, Vice President of Programs for The Fortune Society; David Singleton, Executive Director for the Ohio Justice & Policy Center; and Quintin Williams, Program Officer for the Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform Program at The Joyce Foundation.
- Conviction, Imprisonment, and Lost Earnings: How Involvement with the Criminal Justice System Deepens Inequality, The Brennan Center for Justice (September 2020)
- Williams, Q., & Rumpf, C., What’s After Good?: The Burden of Post-Incarceration Life, 8 J. of Qualitative Crim. Just. & Criminology 3 (2020)
- David Singleton, Restoring Humanity by Forgetting the Past, 81 Ohio St. L.J. 6 (2020)
- Report to the United Nations on Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System, The Sentencing Project (April 2018)
- Collateral Consequences of the War on Drugs, The ACLU (January 2003)
- Words From Prison: The Collateral Consequences of Incarceration, The ACLU
- Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (The New Yorker book review by Anna Altman and Katia Bachko)
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration by Reuben Jonathan Miller (NPR book review by Ericka Taylor)