Thursday, September 27, 2018
The consequences of a criminal conviction extend far beyond “time served”: Ex-offenders often face social and civil stigmas and disabilities that continue for the rest of their lives. These collateral consequences cause real harm to the reputation, dignity, and livelihood that can be difficult to quantify in the strictly economic analysis used in traditional constitutional takings analysis. These collateral consequences are a form of dignity taking which deprive the ex-offender of their status as a full member of society. Bernadette Atuahene originated the idea of “dignity takings”, eventually settling on a definition that combines a traditional government taking of property with an outcome of dehumanization or infantilization. Scholars have applied this analysis to a number of cases of tangible property, but have only just begun to expand it into the criminal justice and reputational harm cases.
By applying the framework of dignity takings to the difficulties faced by ex-offenders in their reentry to society, I will demonstrate how we can better express the harms caused by the collateral consequences of conviction. By doing so, we can focus our attention not on economic damage and restitution, but the restoration of lost dignity and humanity.