From Arrest to Reintegration: A Model for Mitigating Collateral Consequences of Criminal Proceedings
By McGregor Smyth.
Collateral sanctions. Invisible punishments. Internal exile. From the moment of arrest, people are in danger of losing jobs, housing, basic public benefits, and even the right to live in this country. For many, these hardships are far more severe than the criminal charges confronting them. In New York, a plea to disorderly conduct makes a person ineligible for New York City public housing for three years, and two convictions for turnstile jumping can result in the deportation of a lawful permanent resident. Intended to improve “public safety,” these punishments ultimately trap individuals in the revolving door of incarceration and poverty. By blocking the path to stable employment and housing, these barriers actually contribute to recidivism and undermine the struggle for self-sufficiency. The impact hits much deeper than individual defendants—entire families suffer the consequences.
This article outlines a methodology for identifying, evaluating, and mitigating this collateral damage of criminal proceedings. The breadth of these collateral consequences is daunting, both to the people affected and criminal and civil justice practitioners who are faced with learning them. They are often hidden from view, scattered across federal, state, and local statutes, regulations, and administrative policies and practices. Established research and daily experience offer another way of looking at these consequences: They are a critical piece of the reentry/recidivism puzzle—and they are a way of identifying a population most in need of help.