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“Punishment Should End After Time Served”: The Collateral Consequences of Having A Record


Most people believe that once you’ve paid the penalty for your crime or wrongdoing, you are worthy of a fresh start, or forgiveness. Unfortunately, that’s not how our criminal justice system works. There are what many would call permanent, “collateral” consequences for having a criminal record.

Specifically, there are thousands of different restrictions in the form of local, state, and federal laws that weigh down on people with felony convictions in every state, making it extremely difficult for these people to go to school, or work, or obtain loans, etc. in order to reenter society and contribute.

“Collateral Consequences”

The many sanctions that are placed on someone once they’ve done their time and try to reenter society are sometimes referred to as “collateral consequences.” Not only can you have difficulty obtaining a job and housing (as discussed in more detail below), but you can lose the right to vote, serve on a jury; even stay in the United States, etc. You can even lose your right to drive a car, which can interfere with your ability to gain and keep employment. These limitations can have a chilling effect on civil rights, and even arguably encourage some to re-engage in criminal activities just to get by. 

Working Against Women & Children

Unfortunately, many reentry programs are just geared towards men, creating extra hurdles for women who have been incarcerated and who are seeking to reenter society, many of whom have young children that they are trying to take care of. Yet, ironically, in order to regain custody of one’s children, it is often required to first obtain housing and a job, with which having a record can interfere.

Underemployed, Underpaid, Homeless

More than 60 percent of people who’ve been incarcerated are still unemployed one year after being released, and are paid less once they are able to obtain a job. In addition, because many housing applications ask whether the applicant has been incarcerated, it can be very difficult for those who’ve served their time to find anywhere to live outside of subsidized housing. For many, the only way they have access to housing is if they had access to public housing before incarceration.

Help Getting Your Record Sealed In New York

If you have been convicted of a crime, and served your time, you shouldn’t be punished for life by being unable to find work or housing. No one benefits from placing additional trauma on you as you try to reenter society after the trauma you’ve experienced from incarceration itself.

We can help. In the state of New York, you have a chance to get your record sealed for certain convictions, and if you do, it cannot be accessed by members of the public (employers, landlords, etc.). For assistance in getting your record sealed under New York law, contact us at Levy & Rizzo, LLC, The Clean Slate Attorneys today for a free consultation.


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