The United States Commission on Civil Rights will hold a public briefing on collateral consequences on May 19 (“Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption and the Effects on Communities”). The Commission is an independent, bipartisan agency charged with advising the President and Congress on civil rights matters and issuing an annual federal civil rights enforcement report.
Previewing the Commission’s interest, Chair Catherine E. Lhamon said:
Individuals who have paid their debt to society deserve the chance to rebuild their lives after incarceration. The Commission looks forward to receiving information about whether and how current barriers to employment, voting, housing, education, among other core areas of civic life, deprive these Americans of that second chance.
In addition to being open to the public, proceedings will be live streamed at this link, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Advocates and stakeholders drawn from a broad political spectrum will provide testimony on a variety of issues, including the impact of a criminal record on civic participation and barriers to self-sufficiency after a prison term. CCRC Executive Director Margaret Love will describe the range of adverse consequences resulting from conviction, existing mechanisms to avoid or mitigate them, and recent trends in law reform.
The following post is republished, with permission, from the National Clean Slate Clearinghouse listserv. In it Sharon Dietrich points out that even after criminal records have been expunged or sealed, they may still be reported by commercial criminal record providers in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. (See our recent 50-state survey of record-closing laws, with their intended effect.)
You probably are wondering, “What is she talking about, with a subject line like that?” The answer to your thought is that I use this phrase when giving clients an important warning about the effect of their expungement orders. I am illustrating for them the idea that I can’t guarantee removal of their expunged cases from every possible background check, especially those prepared by commercial screener such as Sterling, HireRight, First Advantage and countless others.
Most of the public interest in the Supreme Court’s cert grants on Friday focused on the transgender bathroom case from Virginia. But the Court also granted cert in two cases involving collateral consequences: one a First Amendment challenge to a North Carolina law barring a registered sex offender from internet access; and the other whether a man convicted in California of having consensual sex with his underage girlfriend committed an “aggravated felony” subjecting him to deportation. Here are the SCOTUSblog descriptions of the two cases:
Among the court’s other grants today, Packingham v. North Carolina is the case of Lester Packingham, a North Carolina man who became a registered sex offender after he was convicted, at the age of 21, of taking indecent liberties with a minor. Six years after Packingham’s conviction, North Carolina enacted a law that made it a felony for registered sex offenders to access a variety of websites, from Facebook to The New York Times and YouTube. Packingham was convicted of violating this law after a police officer saw a Facebook post in which Packingham celebrated, and gave thanks to God for, the dismissal of a traffic ticket. The justices today agreed to review Packingham’s contention that the law violates the First Amendment.
In Esquivel-Quintana v. Lynch, the justices will make another foray into an area of law known as “crimmigration” — the intersection of immigration and criminal law. The petitioner in the case, Juan Esquivel-Quintana, was a lawful permanent resident of the United States in 2009, when he was charged with violating a California law that makes it a crime to have sexual relations with someone under the age of 18 when the age difference between the two people involved is more than three years; he had had consensual sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend when he was 20 and 21 years old. The federal government then sought to remove Esquivel-Quintana from the United States on the ground that his conviction constituted the “aggravated felony” of “sexual abuse of a minor.” The lower courts agreed with the federal government, but now the Supreme Court will decide.
A federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a constitutional challenge to the recently enacted International Megan’s Law, which requires specially-marked passports for registered sex offenders whose offenses involved child victims, and authorizes notification to foreign governments when they travel. The so-called “Scarlet Letter” law is specifically aimed at stopping child sex trafficking and sex tourism, and this purpose was evidently enough to justify it even though it has a far broader effect.
The debased legal and social status that results from criminal conviction is visited disproportionately on African-Americans. Collateral consequences are the vehicle by which this country now imposes a permanent servitude on the descendants of those who were once literally owned by other human beings. Mass conviction no less than mass incarceration is a legacy of slavery. So we think it appropriate to commend to our readers Bryan Stevenson’s extraordinary interview for The Marshall Project in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in Charleston. It is incumbent on all of us to consider how the scheme of collateral penalties imposed by the criminal justice system is calculated to keep millions of Americans disenfranchised and impoverished, and to dedicate ourselves to dismantling it.
This article originally appeared at TalkPoverty.org under the title “New Ruling Highlights Why We Need the REDEEM Act”
On May 21, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson ordered the expungement of the 13-year-old federal fraud conviction of “Jane Doe,” a Brooklyn home health aide. His decision received national attention for being unprecedented in the federal courts, which have no explicit authority conferred on them by Congress to expunge or seal federal criminal cases. Encouraging though it is, Judge Gleeson’s decision is most important for its illustration of the need for Congress to enact such a sealing remedy, as provided for in the bipartisan REDEEM Act (S. 675).
During a Town Hall in South Carolina on March 6, President Obama spoke for the second time in recent weeks about his intention to use his pardon power more generously in the final two years of his term.
Responding to a criminal defense attorney who asked what she could do to “increase the number of federal pardons,” the President explained that he was taking a “new approach” to pardons after receiving surprisingly few favorable recommendations from the Justice Department during his first term. He said he had asked the Attorney General to “open up” the pardon process, and to work with advocacy groups and public defenders to make people more aware of the availability of this relief: