US Commission On Civil Rights Calls On Lawmakers to Remove Permanent Punishments for Those with Criminal Convictions
In mid-June, the US commission on civil rights called on Congress to eliminate the “invisible punishments” embedded in our many laws and regulations that prevent those with criminal convictions from re-integrating into society.
According to statistics, more than 600,000 people are returning to communities from prisons every year, and face significant barriers to obtaining basic necessities such as housing and employment because of their records; regardless of their crimes. In addition, this phenomenon this proportionately impacts people of color who are more likely to be arrested and convicted in the first place
Employment, Voting, Financial Aid, College, Housing, And More
There are currently thousands of federal and state laws that currently stand in the way of someone getting re-integrated back into society and support themselves after being in prison. Most of these barriers relate to employment, and while there are some concerns that may justify certain restrictions being in place when it comes to allowing those with certain criminal convictions to hold certain types of job positions, most of the existing restrictions have no link between the reason for the restriction in the actual job position. This results in approximately one out of four Americans essentially being locked out of the labor market.
In addition, employment is not the only barrier that those with criminal records face: other restrictions imposed include those placed on voting, serving on a jury, receiving financial aid, going to college, serving in the military, obtaining housing, and a variety of other basic rights.
What Needs to Change
As a result, the Commission put forth a number of recommendations, including the following:
- Start tailoring any barriers and consequences so that only those absolutely necessary to serve public safety are continued;
- Regularly review these barriers and consequences to evaluate whether they are absolutely necessary and even relate to the underlying offenses;
- Pass legislation that allows for sealing federal criminal conviction records for some offenses–such as nonviolent crimes–after a certain amount of time has passed;
- Eliminate restrictions on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits based on criminal records;
- Limit the ability for public housing providers to prevent individuals with criminal records from accessing public housing;
- Lift restrictions on access to student loans based on criminal records; and
- Mandate that federal courts provide notice on any and all restrictions that will apply before individuals enter into guilty pleas.
Contact Our Florida Criminal Defense & Civil Rights Attorneys
If you live in Florida and have been accused of a crime or are dealing with your civil rights being violated, contact our experienced Miami & Orlando criminal attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can ensure that you are protected and that justice is served.