Most people know the penalties of a criminal conviction, such as fines and imprisonment. However, defendants are rarely warned of the collateral consequences.
Knowing the collateral consequences and their impact can have profound implications for your situation.
Lawmakers are studying the problem
Many individuals convicted of a crime continue to experience negative consequences long after they’ve served their formal sentence. These permeate various facets of life, making it difficult for these individuals seeking to rebuild their lives.
A conviction in Maryland can lead to challenges in securing employment. Many employers conduct background checks, and certain convictions can disqualify an individual from specific professions, thus limiting their opportunities for a career and economic stability. These employment restrictions increase the likelihood that the affected individual will re-offend, and the cycle will continue.
Finding stable and affordable housing is also problematic. Many landlords conduct background checks, and a criminal record may result in denial, leading to housing insecurity for those looking to re-enter society.
In Maryland, individuals with felony convictions may face disenfranchisement from the voting process. While incarcerated, they lose their voting rights. Upon completing their sentence, they receive a voter’s registration application and documentation stating their right to vote has been restored. However, needing to go through the registration process again can affect their civic engagement and participation in the democratic process. In addition, the individual may not qualify for jury duty, depending on the sentence length and whether the conviction was a felony or misdemeanor.
Lawmakers are beginning to understand the issues surrounding collateral consequences and their impact on individuals’ lives and opportunities. They can implement reforms that support rehabilitating and reintegrating those with criminal histories. Policymakers, advocates and communities can work together to provide individuals the chance to rebuild their lives.