The 50-state chart of judicial relief mechanisms from the NACDL Restoration of Rights Resource, which is also posted on this site, is a comprehensive survey of all authorities for judicial relief in the states and federal system. We wanted to bring it to our readers’ attention in light of the new federal interest in helping individuals with a criminal record overcome barriers to employment and licensing through clearing their records.
The National Clean Slate Clearinghouse, recently announced as part of President Obama’s reentry initiative, will “provide technical assistance to local legal aid programs, public defender offices, and reentry service providers to build capacity for legal services needed to help with record-cleaning, expungement, and related civil legal services.” This joint project of the Labor and Justice Departments will doubtless make it a first priority to survey the laws providing judicial and other relief in different states, to determine what sort of assistance lawyers will need to neutralize the adverse employment consequences of conviction, though the courts or otherwise. We hope these resources will prove useful in that effort.
“The barriers associated with having a criminal record do not just result in lifelong punishment for the parent with the record; they also can significantly limit a child’s life chances.” This is according to a new report by the Center for American Progress that examines the multi-generational effects of collateral consequences and the cycle of poverty and lost opportunity that those consequences perpetuate.
A parent’s criminal record can affect everything from a child’s emotional and physical well-being to future economic and educational outcomes. This is true even if the record was for a minor conviction that did not result in incarceration or, in some cases, an arrest that did not result in conviction at all.
A few days ago we received the following communique from Sharon Dietrich of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, announcing a major litigation victory that will be welcome news across the country. On December 30 a unanimous 7-judge appeals court struck down the provisions of the Pennsylvania Older Americans Protective Services Act barring employment of people with criminal records in long-term health care facilities such as nursing homes and home health care agencies. The provisions declared unconstitutional on due process grounds law include lifetime employment bans for offenses as minor as misdemeanor theft, which Sharon notes “prevented many Pennsylvanians with criminal records from working in that entire burgeoning field.” The decision in Peake v. Commonwealth is here, and NPR’s report on the decision is here.
On November 2, the President issued an executive order announcing a series of steps to encourage reentry and rehabilitation of individuals who have recently been released from prison. Among other things, the order establishes a National Clean Slate Clearinghouse, and authorizes technical assistance to legal aid programs and public defender offices “to build capacity for legal services needed to help with record-cleaning, expungement, and related civil legal services.”
According to an article in the New York Times, the measures
are all relatively modest in scale, important to the president less for their individual effect than for the direction they keep the country moving. Collectively, they reflect a belief that former inmates should have greater leeway to apply for jobs and housing without disclosing criminal records that would hinder their chances.
The order also calls on Congress to establish a ban-the-box program for federal employers and contractors. In the interim, it asks the Office of Personnel Management to “take action where it can by modifying its rules to delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process.” Presumably this means at a minimum that OPM should eliminate the criminal history question on its “Declaration for Federal Employment” form. However, the order stops well short of recommending the more progressive steps proposed in a National Employment law Project report issued last January, including the revision of the federal “suitability” regulations to comply fully with the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We will shortly take a closer look at this new federal initiative to blunt the impact of collateral consequences. For now, we post the text of the entire order. Read more
On October 8, a former chief judge of the Eastern District of New York held that he was “constrained by controlling precedent” to deny the expungement petition of a woman who feared that her 23-year-old fraud conviction would prevent her from obtaining a nurse’s license. See Stephenson v. United States, No. 10-MC-712. Judge Raymond Dearie declined to find the “extreme circumstances” warranting expungement under Second Circuit precedent, noting that the petitioner before him was fully employed and that her aspiration to become a nurse was realistic, in light of the protection afforded her by New York’s nondiscrimination laws. He proposed that his own willingness to certify her rehabilitation could help satisfy the “good moral character” standard for a nursing license. (Could this be the sort of “certificate of rehabilitation” contemplated by Judge John Gleeson in his second Jane Doe expungement case? If so, it would seem to require no specific statutory authority for him to issue it to an individual he sentenced, no matter how long ago.)
Judge Dearie contrasted the case before him with the one in which Judge Gleeson ordered expungement in May, where the petitioner’s criminal record was having “a dramatic adverse impact on her ability to work,” citing Jane Doe I at *5. The government has appealed Judge Gleeson’s expungement order.
Joe Palazzolo has posted at the Wall Street Journal Blog an article describing an amicus brief filed yesterday in United States v. Jane Doe (Jane Doe II), one of two federal expungement cases before Judge John Gleeson that we’ve been following. Argument in Jane Doe II is now scheduled for October 26. (The government has appealed Judge Gleeson’s May 21 expungement order in Jane Doe I to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.) The brief begins like this:
This Court invited the views of Amica on the Court’s authority to issue “a certificate of rehabilitation in lieu of expungement” and the appropriateness of issuing such a certificate in this case. While there is no federal statute that authorizes a court to issue relief styled as a “certificate of rehabilitation,” Amica wishes to bring to the Court’s attention two mechanisms, each perhaps underappreciated but with deep historical roots, by which the Court may recognize an individual’s rehabilitation and otherwise address issues such as those raised by petitioner’s case. The first is by exercising its statutory authority to issue a writ of audita querela, which is available in extraordinary circumstances under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. §1651, to grant a measure of relief from the collateral consequences of conviction. The second is by recommending to the President that he grant clemency.
The blog post describing the brief is reprinted in full after the jump.
Governor Cuomo has accepted all 12 recommendations made by his Council on Community Re-entry and Reintegration. The Council was created in July 2014 and tasked with “identifying barriers formerly incarcerated people face and making recommendations for change.”
Governor Cuomo’s 12 executive actions include: adoption of anti-discrimination guidance for public housing; adoption of uniform guidelines for evaluating candidates for occupational licensing, and a presumption in favor of granting a license to a qualified applicant; revision of 10 licensing and employment regulations that imposed stricter standards than required by statute; adoption of a “fair hiring” policy for state employment that will delay a background check until well into the hiring process; and streamlining the process for obtaining certificates of relief from disabilities and certificates of good conduct.
Council Chair Rossana Rosado said, “We accomplished our goals this year but our work is far from over. As we look to address many more of the systemic barriers encountered in re-entry, we will not lose sight of New York’s role as a leader in combating the devastating impact and stigma of second class citizenship that so many of our fellow New Yorkers face, especially men of color.”
The Council will continue to build on this successful first year by promoting a range of educational opportunities to improve chances of employment, addressing barriers to health care, seeking to reduce the potential for extortion from public exposure of criminal records and continuing to seek solutions to housing people with criminal convictions consistent with fairness and public safety.
Nobody disputes that an enormous number of Americans have a criminal record. For people with a criminal past, a segment of the population that in some cases faces a laundry list of social and economic challenges, these records define – and limit – their ability to reintegrate into the community. This is a complex policy that has not received a fraction of the attention it deserves.
James Jacobs’ new book The Eternal Criminal Record (Harvard University Press, 2015) digs deeply into the issue with a nuanced analysis of how this system works. Importantly, the book provides a step-by-step navigation though the process of how and when records are created, how they are shared for and, eventually, what these data can be used for. What results is the most authoritative picture of how the pieces of the administrative universe of criminal history data fit together.
While criminal records can, and most often do, including information on past arrests, convictions and punishments, changes in the use and ownership of these files has changed the landscape. These modifications are not necessarily all bad – for example, computerization and standardization have made instantaneous checks and intrajurisdiction data sharing possible – but they create significant challenges. Some criminal data are part of the public domain, others are now owned by private companies. Modernization cannot eliminate the creation and replication of errors- and these mistakes have meaningful consequences.