Collateral Consequences and the Enduring Nature of Punishment

Brennan Center for Justice

(June 21, 2021)
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A new analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice discusses the roughly 600,000 people leaving prisons every year "hoping that their punishment has ended, only to encounter a combination of laws, rules, and biases forming barriers that block them from jobs, housing, and fundamental participation in our political, economic, and cultural life."

As the authors contend, these collateral consequences "powerfully illustrate the excessively retributive nature of American criminal justice, from the inability to acquire a driver’s license (and thus, the inability to drive to work) to limits on access to college or even military service." These consequences, they continue, "serve to remind people with criminal records of their permanent status as 'other.'"

In the article, the authors focus on limits to employment opportunities, gaps in the social safety net, and the status of voting rights for individuals with criminal records.