News Release

NACDL Releases Conference Report: “Shattering the Shackles of Collateral Consequences”

Washington, DC (June 4, 2019) – 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. The Conference — Shattering the Shackles of Collateral Consequences: Exploring Moral Principles and Economic Innovations to Restore Rights and Opportunity — examined the destructive effect that a vast network of penalties, debarments, and disabilities following a criminal conviction has on the millions of people who have come in contact with the criminal justice system. The conference also explored the disparate impact that these collateral consequences have on communities of color. At the same time, the conference highlighted the groundbreaking work that is helping people break free from the shackles while providing a roadmap for national reform. Today, NACDL releases its report on the Shattering the Shackles conference.

“The United States not only imprisons people at far higher rates than any other democracy, but it also leads the world in imposing a vast network of life-altering consequences on the millions of individuals who pass through the nation’s criminal justice system each year,” explained NACDL President Drew Findling in the Foreword to the Report, adding that “The nation’s criminal defense bar is determined to reverse these policies. Accordingly, in August of 2018, as I started my term as NACDL President, NACDL, with support from the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice, convened the three-day conference that is the subject of this report. The purpose of this joint SCJN Conference and Presidential Summit was to look closely at the systemic injustice that affects the millions of people who have paid their debt to society and elicit reform recommendations from stakeholders from across the system and across the ideological spectrum. To do that, the conference brought together numerous formerly incarcerated people, prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers, criminal justice advocates, social workers, probation officers, and more.”

Conference speakers and panelists included thought leaders and policy advocates from across the nation and across the political spectrum. Special presentations were made by then-Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, both of whom were presented with NACDL’s Champion of Justice Restoration of Rights Award at the conference.

Some of the broad recommendations for reducing the impact of collateral consequences included:

  • Building up resources in communities of color
  • Funding better education systems
  • Protecting and asserting the right to vote
  • Increasing awareness of mental health issues
  • Reforming law enforcement education to foster improved community relations
  • Building coalitions at the local, state, and national levels
  • Rehabilitating and educating people while they are incarcerated
  • Making prisons and prosecutions more transparent
  • Banning the box on employment applications that asks about prior criminal records
  • Providing more employment opportunities for people getting out of prison
  • Sharing success stories and changing the narrative about people who have been incarcerated

This report is intended to facilitate more discussion and to inspire further action on these issues so that anyone —not just the conference attendees and participants — can work to shatter the shackles of collateral consequences.

NACDL was extremely fortunate to have Brennan M. Wingerter as the official reporter for this conference. Brennan is the Founder and Managing Attorney at East Tennessee Appellate Litigation, PLLC (ET AL), based in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Download a copy of the report, and watch videos of each of the presentations at the conference, at

To learn more about NACDL’s extensive work in the area of restoration of rights, please visit Among that work is a groundbreaking 2014 NACDL report entitled Collateral Damage: America's Failure to Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime - A Roadmap to Restore Rights and Status After Arrest and Conviction, the product of years of study and hearings held throughout the nation.

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Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.