Legal Briefs Podcast #7: Collateral Consequences with Arthur Rizer and Emily Mooney of R Street Institute

Contributing Author: National District Attorneys Association

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his isn’t news to anyone — Americans who have served jail time face additional obstacles to getting a job, renting an apartment, and pursuing other regular activities as they reenter society. Arrest and conviction histories are a huge disadvantage for those who are unable to get their criminal records erased.

Nine out of ten employers conduct background checks on potential hires and a criminal record cuts the callback rate for a job by about 50%, including for minor offenses. Women jailed in growing numbers across the U.S., who are often single mothers, do not have access to reentry programs tailored to their particular needs. Having a criminal record also affects more than the individual with the record — their families and children are also punished. Failing to find a steady job or stable home greatly contributes to recidivism and can trap a family into a cycle of crime.

Collateral consequences often come from ineffective laws and crippling bureaucratic processes. An example is the expungement, or sealing, process in which many states have the ability to remove criminal records from the public eye. As a result of the complicated court processes required, many people are prevented from benefitting from this opportunity even if they’ve lived crime-free for many years and have proven themselves to be an upstanding citizen. We hear in this episode how Pennsylvania was able to go from sealing 1,500 cases in four years to sealing more than 107,000 misdemeanor cases in less than one year — simply by removing the state’s long court process.

There are other proposals and policy changes that help reintegrate those with criminal records back into society, including employment programs, implementing certificates of rehabilitation, youth diversion programs, and reinstating Federal Pell Grants for those who have been incarcerated, among others. Regarding Federal Pell Grants, research shows that obtaining a post-secondary degree is associated with reductions in recidivism and can help those with criminal records earn higher wages. Policy changes like these are crucial in helping individuals claim a second chance at life, especially after working very hard to be able to do so.

In this episode of Legal Briefs, we speak with two experts from the R Street Institute’s Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties team — Arthur Rizer and Emily Mooney — to learn more about reducing collateral consequences and increasing second chances for the individuals who deserve them, including against the backdrop of COVID-19 as well as modern issues on data privacy.

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The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) is the oldest and largest national organization representing state and local prosecutors in the country.

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