Beyond Prison: The Collateral Consequences of Being An Ex-Offender
For many defendants who have broken the law, been convicted and sentenced for the offense, and then sent to jail, they believe that after they have served their time, they are free to return to their normal lives. However, it becomes increasingly obvious that even if one has served time in prison or jail, they are never totally free from punishment by the outside world.
Post-Prison: The Legal and Social Stigmas
The legal and social stigma surrounding ex-felons creates a situation where though the felon has made penance for the crime, society still continues to add on restrictions that severely limit the freedom that they expected to have once out of prison. These additional restrictions and limitations on freedoms are known as collateral consequences and have been at the center of some recent debate regarding a post-prison lifestyle.
Collateral consequences are called as such because they are unintended byproducts of being marked a “felon.” These collateral consequences are not the types that are punishment as part and parcel of a felon’s sentence for an offense, but are restrictions that come from outside the court that society feels is reasonable as a result of breaking the law. The most well known collateral consequence is disenfranchisement; the Fourteenth Amendment provides that voting rights may be disallowed for committing a crime. There can also be restrictions on housing options, employment choices, public benefits, and the right of immigration. It has been estimated that ex-offenders who have served their sentence may still be up against almost 50,000 legally permissible collateral consequences.
Controversiality of Collateral Consequence
The most controversial aspect about these collateral consequences is the fact that many have little to no ties to the actual offense that the person was charged with. For example, recidivism rates decline when the person is legally restricted from a situation, which could lead to re-commission of a crime. This would be in the cases of restricting child sex offenders from working with children or being within a certain distance of child-related areas like schools or arcades.
Returning to Prison Better than Living a Life Surrounded by Restrictions?
These legally permissible collateral consequences also could make it harder for ex-offenders to restart their life because employers can discriminate against ex-felons and dismiss their application because of their criminal record. This exacerbates an already difficult job-hunting experience when many ex-felons have very little vocational training, academic education, a limited work background, and potentially a history of mental illness or substance abuse issues. All of these restrictions on ex-felons attempting to clean the slate and become productive members of society lead to isolation of ex-felons from society and potentially can lead to more destructive behavior and a return back to what they unfortunately see as their safest haven option: prison.
The Second Chance Act
Currently, the Second Chance Act and the new database developed by the American Bar Association (ABA) Criminal Justice Section are attempts to shed light on the plight of ex-offenders. The Second Chance Act is a federal law that grants $250 million to state and local governments to provide re-entry programs to ex-offenders to get them back on their feet. The database developed by the ABA shows all the legally permissible collateral consequences in each state depending on the type of offense that the offender was convicted of. The website is intended to be used by ex-offenders and criminal defense attorneys alike to better understand the collateral consequences that each ex-offender faces.
Criminal Defense Attorneys in Fort Lauderdale
With the legally permissible collateral consequences extending an ex-offender’s sentence beyond just a prison stay, the best way to avoid this situation is to not be sentenced at all. That is always easier said than done, but becomes more likely when you are defended by an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation.