Administering Justice: Removing Statutory Barriers to Reentry

Joy Radice, 83 University of Colorado Law Review 715

(July 2011)
Administering Justice: Removing Statutory Barriers to Reentry article cover

After years of swelling prison populations, this article asserts that the reentry into society of people with criminal convictions has become a central criminal justice issue. Scholars, advocates, judges, and lawmakers have repeatedly emphasized that, even after prison, punishment continues from severe civil penalties that are imposed by federal and state statutes on anyone with a conviction. The article describes that, to alleviate the impact of these punishments, they have increasingly endorsed state legislation that creates certificates of rehabilitation. 

This article draws lessons from the fifty-year history of New York’s Certificates of Rehabilitation to describe features of an ideal administrative mechanism that removes statutory barriers to reentry. In it, the author argues that a model Certificate of Rehabilitation statute will have a strong enforcement mechanism and clear directives for administering authorities. Successful implementation also requires committed administrative leadership and an effective means for making certificates accessible to the population they serve. The author concludes that, while Certificates of Rehabilitation do not erase a person’s criminal history, they do offer legal and social recognition that after a criminal conviction, a person deserves a second chance.