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Previously Incarcerated Advocate Speaks out On What It’s like To Live with A Criminal Record


In a piece recently published by the Center for American Progress, one criminal justice advocate speaks out on the lifelong consequences of having a criminal record, and how making one nonviolent mistake, even many years earlier and after having done your time, can forever rob you of your rights. The piece was written in dedication to Black History Month, where we as a country most consider significant reform of our criminal justice system.

The writer specifically describes being sentenced to 10 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of 40 months to be served before being eligible for release after pleading guilty to a first-time nonviolent drug offense in 1996. After being denied an education and subsequent opportunities during incarceration, he was released to additional punishments; punishments such as the automatic suspension of his driver’s license, myriad barriers to education and employment, the permanent loss of his voting rights in his birth state, and the overall “stigma of a criminal conviction.” In a system that favors punishment over reform, this is far from atypical.

Disproportionate Effects of Criminal Punishment & Records

Today, there are more than 70 million Americans currently living with a criminal record, and 2.2 million more incarcerated in local jails and federal and state prisons. African-Americans and Latinos represent 60 percent of the prison population (and only 30 percent of the general population), making these impacts disproportionate based on race. This results in losing working-age men and women, pockets of concentrated poverty, intergenerational disadvantages, and flourishing racial inequality.

Is It Morally Unjustifiable To Continue To Punish Those Who Have Served Their Time?

As the author points out, in addition to valuing liberty and equality, we as a society should also be embracing parsimony, or the concept that the punishment for the crime should never be more severe than what is necessary to achieve the retribution or prevention for that crime. Anything beyond this (including punishing those who have served their time via lifelong consequences of having a criminal record) arguably becomes morally unjustifiable.

New York Record Sealing Attorneys Who Can Help You Move On

Believe it or not, until the late 20th century, the American criminal justice system did value what was needed to cure whatever landed an individual in the criminal justice system in the first place, including assistance with educational or vocational training.

States like New York are moving forward and now have laws allowing individuals convicted of certain offenses to get their records sealed, so that they do not suffer from these disproportionate penalties for the rest of their lives. For assistance in getting your record sealed here in New York, contact Levy & Rizzo, LLC, The Clean Slate Attorneys today for a free consultation.


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