Saturday, August 5, 2017

The far-reaching consequences of our criminal justice system

I learned something deep today: have you ever heard of “Collateral Consequences” in regard to the justice system? We all think we know how it affects people, but we mostly only know just the surface.

“Collateral consequences are legal and regulatory sanctions and restrictions that limit or prohibit people with criminal records from accessing employment, occupational licensing, housing, voting, education, and other opportunities. Collateral consequences most frequently affect people who have been convicted of a crime, though in some states an arrest alone—even an arrest that doesn't result in a conviction—may trigger a collateral consequence”.

“Some collateral consequences serve a legitimate public safety or regulatory function, such as keeping firearms out of the hands of people convicted of domestic violence offenses, prohibiting people convicted of abuse from working with children or the elderly, or barring people convicted of fraud from positions of public trust. Others are directly related to the particular crime, such as registration requirements for sex offenders, driver’s license restrictions for people convicted of serious traffic offense, or debarment of people convicted of fraud. But many collateral consequences apply to people convicted of any crime, without regard to any relationship between the crime and opportunity being restricted, and frequently without consideration of how long ago the crime occurred or the person’s rehabilitation efforts since. Collateral consequences with overbroad restrictions that offer no chance to overcome the restriction function as additional punishment and may discourage rehabilitation and ultimately increase recidivism”. 

“Collateral consequences are scattered throughout the codebooks and are frequently unknown even to those responsible for their administration and enforcement. They have been promulgated with little coordination in disparate sections of state and federal codes, which makes it difficult for anyone to identify all of the penalties and disabilities that may be triggered by a criminal record for a certain offense”. 

“While collateral consequences have been a familiar feature of the American justice system since colonial times, they have become more pervasive and more problematic in the past 20 years for three reasons: they are more numerous and impactful, they affect more people, and they are harder to avoid or mitigate. As a result, millions of Americans are consigned to a kind of a permanent legal limbo because of a crime they committed in the past”. 

It is calculated that the economy is missing out on approximately $87 Billion dollars a year on revenue because people with convictions are permanently labelled as criminals and cannot work due to these laws. Instead of someone being able to get a good solid job driving for UPS for example, they have to dig ditches for a living. Someone trained to be a barber cannot cut hair any longer because of this; about 40,000 collateral consequence!

I am going to quote something said to me today: “we as a society should not be counting recidivism rates as a measure of success, but rather, the quality of life of those who paid their debt to society”.
This is why criminal justice is a social issue: people should not be permanently labeled as criminals. If you believe this is true then you are not a true believer in justice, you simply believe in punishment.
Dr Flavius A B Akerele III
The ETeam

PS I should not have to tell you that the neighborhoods most affected by these rules are minority peoples.

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