Offender Reentry and the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions: An Introduction


Relatively recently, a burgeoning chorus of advocates, policy analysts, and commentators has called attention to the various collateral consequences that attend criminal convictions. Such consequences exist at the federal and state levels, and are considered to be the indirect, rather than direct, consequences that flow from a criminal conviction. While direct consequences include the length of the jail or prison sentence the defendant receives as well as, in some jurisdictions, the defendant’s parole eligibility or imposition of fines, collateral consequences encompass a wide array of sanctions-termed civil disabilities that attach to, but are legally separate from, the criminal sentence. Some of these consequences are imposed automatically by operation of law, while others are imposed at the discretion of agencies detached from the criminal justice system. Although such sanctions are too numerous to detail here, some of the most prominent include permanent or temporary ineligibility for federal welfare benefits, educational grants, public housing, voting, handgun licenses and military service; prohibitions from various forms of employment as well as employment-related licensing; and, for non-citizens, deportation.

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