Collateral consequences are the roadblocks that those with prior criminal convictions and their loved ones face upon the returning citizen’s release. These range from emotional consequences, like a sense of helplessness when returning to the outside world, all the way to government-imposed burdens, like restricted access to public benefits. These all culminate into one result: recidivism. Recidivism is a term used to describe when a returning citizen re-offends and lands back into the prison system. The exclusionary and alienating effect of these collateral consequences makes recidivism incredibly hard to avoid for returning citizens.
Common Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions
The government imposing many restrictions on returning citizens in the area of access to public housing. For example, registered sex offenders cannot obtain public housing for the rest of their lives. Additionally, federal law grants those in charge of public housing broad authority to grant or deny an individual’s application for this benefit based upon their prior criminal convictions. This has resulted in public housing authorities nationally determining for themselves without any consistency which convictions will result in a bar from entry. This sort of housing discrimination, seemingly at random, makes it very hard for returning citizens to know where and when they will be denied access to public housing. This makes the re-entry process even harder to navigate. Housing is a necessity and a right, as seen by the effect a stable living situation has on rates of happiness, economic success, and recidivism.
One of the most difficult areas for returning citizens to face upon reentry is gaining stable employment. Those with prior criminal convictions face various federal and state labor restrictions. These can include restrictions by statute, licensing regulation, and the effect of background checks mandated by local or federal government. Depending on the nature of the conviction, those with a prior criminal history can be bars from entire areas of employment, like real-estate work, teaching, child-care, the practice of law, and the practice of medicine. Most applications require an individual to disclose whether or not they have a criminal record, even if it did not result in a conviction, and then the use of background checks gives employers open access to discriminate on the basis of prior criminal history. The effects of this kind of employment discrimination are staggering, with Washington D.C. reporting seventy-one percent of returning citizens as unemployed in 2015. Unemployment and financial insecurity are some of the biggest factors in examining whether an individual is likely to re-offend, so this collateral consequence has an especially negative effect on returning citizens.
Those with prior criminal convictions also run into trouble with food benefits, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”). SNAP bans apply to individuals with prior drug-related felony offenses, primarily. While most states have opted out of this federal SNAP ban for returning citizens with prior felony drug offenses, some states still impose this restriction, resulting in food insecurity for the returning citizens and their families. This shows that collateral consequences imposed by the government affect not only those with prior criminal records but also their families, like their dependent children who would potentially face food insecurity due to this benefit denial. A lack of resources, like access to enough and nutritious food, can lead individuals to re-offend.
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, collateral consequences are difficult to navigate once an individual has been convicted. The easiest way to avoid this labyrinthian process is to acquire the assistance of a trustworthy and trained criminal defense attorney to help navigate the criminal process from the beginning so that an individual does not have to face these consequences. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, which will result in collateral consequences if convicted, contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm will work zealously and tirelessly to help you or a loved one navigate this tricky process and, if possible, avoid having to deal with these collateral consequences. Call a defense attorney today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your options during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.
 PATRICK A. LANGAN & DAVID J. LEVIN, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, PUB. NO. NCJ-193427, SPECIAL REPORT: RECIDIVISM OF PRISONERS RELEASED IN 1994, at 1 (2002), available at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf (stating in pertinent part that in a study of fifteen states, about two-thirds of returning citizens in 1994 reentered the prison system within three years of their release).
 As Gwen Rubinstein & Debbie Mukamal, Welfare and Housing–Denial of Benefits to Drug
Offenders, in INVISIBLE PUNISHMENT: THE COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF MASS IMPRISONMENT, at 37, 43–46.
 42 U.S.C. § 13663(a) (2006) (banning individuals on a sex offender registry from obtaining federal governmental assistance in housing).
 Corinne A. Carey, No Second Chance: People with Criminal Records Denied Access to Public Housing, 36 U. TOL. L. REV. 545, 566–69 (2005) (discussing local measures excluding prospective tenants based on prior arrests and minor and/or nonviolent offenses).
 Lutze, Faith E., Jeffrey W. Rosky, and Zachary K. Hamilton. “Homelessness and reentry: A multisite outcome evaluation of Washington State’s reentry housing program for high risk offenders.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 41, no. 4 (2014).
 Ds AM. BAR ASS’N COMM’N ON EFFECTIVE CRIM. SANCTIONS & PUB. DEFENDER SERV. FOR D.C., INTERNAL EXILE: COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF CONVICTION IN FEDERAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS 19–33 (2009), available at http://www.abanet.org/cecs/internalexile.pdf.
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.