October 01, 2012

New website launched on collateral consequences

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) launched the new collateral consequences website on Capitol Hill Sept. 19. An ABA Criminal Justice Section project created the website through a National Institute of Justice grant.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) officially launched a new free website Sept. 19 on Capitol Hill that was developed and is being updated and maintained by the ABA Criminal Justice Section in conjunction with the National Institute of Justice.

The “National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction” website allows users to search for state and federal laws and rules that result in collateral consequences, which are additional state actions that hinder people with criminal records from successfully integrating back into society. These collateral consequences may affect an individual’s ability to find a job or housing, secure licenses, obtain an education or keep his or her family together.

“The website you demonstrate today will take us still further toward helping our criminal justice systems work better, providing second chances to convicted individuals, and making our communities safer,” said Leahy, who sponsored the Court Security Act of 2007, which authorized funding for establishing the collateral consequences resource.

The website is designed to help practicing lawyers, lawmakers and policy advocates recognize the scope and impact of such laws and disqualifications and also help affected individuals understand their rights and responsibilities. The database, which will be expanded over the next 18 months, initially includes information on federal statutes and regulations and state statutes and regulations from Vermont, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina and New York.

Data entered into the database so far indicates that approximately 40,000 separate collateral consequences ultimately will be identified, with more than half of them affecting employment or occupational licensing opportunities. The other half affects business opportunities, housing and residency, public benefits (including grants and loans), family relationships, education, motor vehicle licensure and registration, and civic participation.

“By gathering in one place information that is now scattered through the codebooks, the Inventory gives prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges the tools they need to make the best possible decisions,” according to Project Director Margaret Love, who demonstrated the website during the event. “It also brings legislatures and executive officials face to face with the web of laws that limit opportunities for individuals with criminal records so they can decide which ones make sense and which ones do not,” she added. 

The ABA Criminal Justice Section has become the leading national source for data on the collateral consequences of criminal convictions and juvenile delinquency adjudications.

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