Friday, March 13, 2015

Looking at Collateral Consequences of Conviction

As we continue to think about the larger social impact of extremely long sentences and supermax detention, we should include consideration of the social impact of collateral consequences of conviction. What are the pros and cons of imposing collateral consequences on those who have been convicted and served their punishments?  As all criminal law professors know and teach our students, one of the purposes of an actual sentence is rehabilitation and certainly one of the purposes is retribution.  The other purposes are isolation and deterrence.  So what are the purposes served by collateral consequences?   Permanently disenfranching post-sentence  - is that part of punishment?  Is depriving someone of housing benefits or requiring perpetual reporting of convictions part of punishment or is some other purpose served?  Given a growing political and social impact, particularly in the United States, we need to think more clearly about this.

A new statute in the United Kingdom seeks to protect those who have served their sentences from having to report past criminal convictions on a job application.  Until recently, those sentenced to four years or less in prison who do not offend again do not have to disclose their criminal records.  There is a schedule about when those prior sentences are deemed too old to require reporting.  Realizing that “finding a job can be a crucial step in the rehabilitation process,” a recent amendment to the Data Protection Act – a new Section 56 -   imposes criminal liability on potential employers who require a job applicant to authorize a data search that would fully reveal past information.   For additional information about this new law click here:

New Law Means Job Applicants Cannot Be Forced to Reveal Spent Convictions.

In the United States, the ABA has created and launched an extremely helpful NICCC database (National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Convictions) that collects the law on collateral consequences in the Federal system and each of the fifty states. For review of the database, click here.

To track changes in the United States, and for more information on the debate, please see the readings below.

Related Readings:



Governmental Publication

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