The National Employment Legal Project has issued a report that highlights what several states’ lawmakers have done over the past year to reduce the collateral consequences of having a criminal conviction on one’s record. Barriers to housing, employment and educational opportunities are some of the issues that can thwart successful reentry.
State Reforms Reducing Collateral Consequences for People with Criminal Records: 2011-2012 Legislative Round-Up includes several key areas that have proven to be successful in reducing collateral consequences. They include laws regarding:
Ban the Box
Employer negligent hiring protections
Expungement and sealing
Federal public benefits opt-out legislation
Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act legislation
Highlights from the report include the following:
One state (Colorado) adopted a “ban the box” policy, which delays background checks until later in the hiring process, while seven states introduced legislation to adopt or expand the policy.
At least eight states considered new limitations on negligent hiring liability (Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin), though only one—Ohio—ultimately adopted new protections.
Eight states (Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah) enacted provisions to expunge or seal criminal history information in an effort to eliminate barriers to employment. At least three states—New Mexico, South Carolina, and West Virginia—vetoed measures while at least eight states introduced legislation.
At least four states—Alabama, California, Missouri, and Pennsylvania—introduced measures to improve access to public benefits for persons with felony convictions.
One state (Delaware) enacted the first part of a two-year process to repeal the five-year waiting period for persons with certain felony convictions to have their voting rights restored. At least three states introduced measures to restore voting rights for persons with certain convictions.
Five states—New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Vermont—introduced legislation that would significantly mitigate the effects of collateral consequences for individuals who plead guilty.
Source: The David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy