The bipartisan Overcriminalization Task Force of the House Judiciary Committee has scheduled its eighth hearing this Thursday, June 26, 2014, at 9:30 am at 2237 Rayburn House Office Building. The topic of this hearing is “Collateral Consequences.” A link to the Judiciary Committee web page on which the witnesses’ written testimony will be posted, as well as a webcast of the hearing, is here.
This hearing comes on the heels of the May 29 release of a major new report on the subject by National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) — Collateral Damage America’s Failure to Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime – A Roadmap to Restore Rights and Status After Arrest or Conviction. With more than 65 million people in America having some form of a criminal record, the universality and import of the problem this nonpartisan report tackles is tremendous. NACDL’s Task Force on the Restoration of Rights and Status After Conviction held hearings all over the country, featuring testimony from more than 150 witnesses from every corner of the criminal justice system, as part of the research leading to this report.
This Thursday’s hearing on Capitol Hill is being held as the problem of collateral consequences and NACDL’s report and recommendations have been front and center in the press in recent weeks:
- The New York Times ran an editorial on Sunday, June 1, 2014 — In Search of Second Chances (“The report makes several recommendations, including the repeal of most mandatory post-conviction penalties, except for those specifically needed to protect public safety. Where the penalties are not mandatory, they should be imposed only if the facts of a case warrant it. The report also recommends that the process for restoring a person’s rights and status be simple, clear and accessible….The point is not to excuse or forget the crime; in the Internet era that wouldn’t be possible anyway. Rather, it is to recognize that in America’s vast criminal justice system, where 14 million people are arrested a year and 2.2 million are put behind bars (virtually all of whom will one day be released), second chances are imperative. It is in no one’s interest to keep a large segment of the population on the margins of society.”)
- Carrie Johnson at National Public Radio covered the May 29, 2014, release of NACDL’s report at the Open Society Foundations and had a piece on “All Things Considered”– Criminal Records Keep Creating Obstacles Long After Incarceration (“A new report from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is shedding light on some unexpected consequences of being convicted of a crime – everything from troubles with employment to bans in public housing. The group says it’s time to start thinking about forgiveness.”)
- Radley Balko at the Washington Post wrote a story on May 29, 2014, It’s time to talk about redemption (“As encouraging as the pan-ideological move toward criminal justice reform has been, it also is a recognition that we’ve been enforcing bad policies. Changing those policies going forward, difficult as that has been, is only half the battle. The other half is mending the damage those policies have done, at least to the extent that it’s mendable. So NACDL is pushing for a pretty dramatic shift in how we think about crime, criminals and criminal records.”)
- Witness Rick Jones appeared for an hour-long discussion on the Joy Cardin Show on Wisconsin Public Radio on June 17, 2014 – Collateral Consequences of Conviction (“The consequences of being charged or convicted of a felony can affect every aspect of a person’s life, including employment, housing and education. Joy Cardin’s guest [Rick Jones] discusses a new study that serves as a roadmap to restore rights and status of people with a criminal record.”)
A webcast of Thursday’s hearing will be available together with the written testimony here and here. Since the Congressional Overcriminalization Task Force was first authorized in May of 2013, it has held seven substantive hearings on Capitol Hill, with NACDL leadership testifying as witnesses at two of those hearings. Links to webcasts of all seven of the Task Force’s previous hearings and the written testimony of all of the witnesses are available at www.nacdl.org/overcrimtaskforce. To access resources and to learn more about NACDL’s work on the problem of overcriminalization in America, visit www.nacdl.org/overcrim. On the subject of the collateral consequences of arrest or conviction, NACDL’s recently released report, its Restoration of Rights Project, and more are all available at www.nacdl.org/restoration.