Formerly incarcerated people are building their own businesses and giving others second chances
ABA Journal by Kevin Davis
As he prepared to leave prison for the second time, David Figueroa decided he was going to walk away from the Chicago street gang he belonged to since he was a boy and build a better life for himself. “I wanted to do the right thing this time,” he says. “I wanted to get a job. I wanted to get married. I wanted to have children.”
He knew finding work would be hard because of his criminal record. “It was a very scary moment,” recalls Figueroa, whose hands, fingers, arms and chest were covered with gang tattoos when he left prison in 2005 at the age of 29. He thought at the time: “Wherever I go, I will be looked at as a scary person.”
Figueroa grew up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, notorious for its violent street gangs in the ’80s and ’90s. He wanted out, and he hoped to work in construction. But doors began slamming as soon as he filled out job applications. “Every time I checked the box that asked whether you were a convicted felon, I never got a call back,” he says.
June 13, 2019
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Releases Report:
Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption and the Effects on Communities
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released its report,Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption and the Effects on Communities. Each year, federal and state prisons release more than 620,000 individuals, and even after completing their sentences, these individuals still face potentially thousands of collateral consequences upon reentering society. Individuals can face barriers to voting, jury service, holding public office, securing employment, obtaining housing, receiving public assistance, getting a driver’s license, qualifying for college admission and financial aid, qualifying for military service, and maintaining legal status as an immigrant. The impact of each consequence extends past people with felony convictions to affect families and communities.
Chair Catherine E. Lhamon said, “These collateral consequences impose heavy burdens on formerly incarcerated persons’ ability successfully to reintegrate into free society and in so doing render all of us less equal and less safe. Congress, and local communities, should heed the call documented in these pages to lift unnecessary restrictions and speed effective reentry for formerly incarcerated people.”
Key findings from the Commission majority include:
· Collateral consequences exacerbate punishment beyond the criminal conviction after an individual completes the court-imposed sentence. Valid public safety bases support some collateral consequences; however, many are unrelated either to the underlying crime for which a person has been convicted or to a public safety purpose.
· Evidence shows harsh collateral consequences unrelated to public safety increase recidivism by limiting or by completely barring formerly incarcerated persons’ access to personal and family support.
· The general public, attorneys, and courts often lack knowledge of what the totality of the collateral consequences are in their jurisdiction, how long they last, and whether they are discretionary or mandatory, or even if they are relevant to public safety or merely an extended punishment beyond a sentence. This absence of awareness undermines any deterrent effect that might flow from attaching such consequences, separate and apart from the punishment itself, to criminal convictions.
Key recommendations from the Commission majority include:
· Collateral consequences should be tailored to serve public safety. Policymakers should avoid punitive mandatory consequences that bear no rational relationship to the offense committed, and impede people convicted of crimes from safely reentering and becoming contributing members of society. Jurisdictions should periodically review the consequences imposed by law or regulation to evaluate whether they are necessary to protect public safety and if they are related to the underlying offenses.
· Call on Congress to limit discretion of public housing providers to prevent them from categorically barring people with criminal convictions from access to public housing; lift restrictions on access to student loans based on criminal convictions, except for convictions related to financial fraud; eliminate restrictions on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits based on criminal convictions; and require federal courts to give comprehensive notice of federal restrictions on individuals’ rights before guilty plea entry, upon conviction, and upon release from incarceration.
Collateral Consequences is based on expert and public input, extensive research and analysis, and testimony, findings, and recommendations from Commission State Advisory Committees in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
COOK COUNTY CHIEF JUDGE RELEASES NEW REPORT ON BOND REFORM SHOWING OVERWHELMING SUCCESS
Coalition to End Money Bond
Late last week, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans released a new report about bond reform and its impact in Cook County. Notably, the court also released case-level data for the first time, which will allow independent analysis by people outside the court system. The central conclusion from the new report is simple: fewer people are being incarcerated in Cook County Jail and increased pretrial releases “did not increase the threat to public safety in Cook County.”
What this truly means is that releasing more people pretrial in recent years has, in fact, increased public safety. In addition to the fact that reforms have not been shown to increase already low re-arrest rates, jailing fewer people will ultimately reduce crime because pretrial incarceration increases recidivism. The changes have also meant that, on any given day in Cook County, thousands of people who are members of the public are spared the inherent harms—physical, economic, emotional, legal—that necessarily occur in jail.
The report analyzes data about tens of thousands of bond decisions made in Cook County in 2016 and 2018, both before and after the implementation of General Order 18.8A, the local court rule requiring judges to set money bonds only in amounts people can afford to pay. According to the report, the Order has had clear positive effects: money bonds have been used less frequently overall, the median money bond amount has dropped significantly (from $5,000 to $1,000), and the average daily number of people in Cook County Jail has declined from 10,064 in January 2014 to 5,799 in December 2018. Despite the Order’s stated goal of ensuring “no [one] is held in custody prior to trial solely because [they] cannot afford to post bail,” however, approximately 2,000 people were locked up in Cook County Jail for just that reason on the day of the report’s release.
California Programs Helps People On Parole To Function In Society
Heard on Morning Edition by Elissa Nadworny
May 2, 2019
A re-entry program in San Bernardino, Calif., for released offenders is like a bridge between the world of corrections and the world of social services. The program helps people on parole transition.
The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and a big part of that is re-offenders. One way to get those numbers down is to give people on parole the tools they need to function in society. In San Bernardino, Calif., there is a promising effort to do just that. Here's NPR's Elissa Nadworny.
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What happened during my first visit to a prison since being released from one
Washington Post by Jason Razaian
On my latest trip to the Bay Area, I did something a bit different from what I usually do when I visit the area in which I grew up: I went to prison.
I had the opportunity to meet with inmates at San Quentin State Prison, the California penitentiary that sits on the southeastern edge of San Rafael, the city I called home for my first 33 years.
I had driven past San Quentin thousands of times. As a boy at Marin Country Day School, I looked out across the bay to see the prison’s sand-colored walls just across the water. During my childhood, my dad, his sister and a cousin all had retail businesses in an outdoor shopping mall less than a quarter of a mile from the prison.
This, though, was the first time I was going inside. It was my first experience at a prison since being released from Evin in Iran, which was also eerily close to my home in Tehran.
No Place to Call Home
BPI & Roosevelt University: Policy Research Collaborative : 2018
Click here to find out more about the collaboration
For individuals with criminal records, finding a place to live in Chicago can be extremely challenging.
Through interviews with 81 individuals with criminal records, this study shows how the presence of a
criminal record creates barriers for individuals on the private housing rental market regardless of the
individual’s age or the age of the individual’s record.
Participants were asked to sketch on a map where they think they could find a place to live. This
report juxtaposes their answers with information about where they have experienced rental rejection
in the past. The presence of a criminal record can multiply other forms of disadvantage, deepening
racial, class, and gender divides. By discriminating against individuals with criminal records, landlords
not only undermine individuals’ attempts to build stable lives, but also reproduce and multiply large-
scale social inequities.
Nationally, 95% of state prisoners will be released from prison at some point, while an estimated one
in three Americans has a criminal record.
In Chicago alone, approximately 11,000 individuals return
from Illinois prisons each year, so the challenges experienced by people with criminal records are
Moreover, in Illinois, about 48% of individuals released from prison will return within
three years—a figure that reveals the pressing need for improved reentry opportunities and
Housing, in particular, comprises a crucial component of successful reentry—a key
building block that promotes steady employment, fosters mental and physical health, supports
individuals in their recovery from substance abuse, and provides the other advantages of stable
shelter that are vital to basic human wellbeing.
No Place to Call Home proposes policy solutions to help overcome systemic discrimination against
renters with criminal records and mitigate the ripple effects of that discrimination. Through a
combination of reforms, this report proposes a pathway to expand housing access to those with
criminal records in order to make Chicago and other cities more equitable and hospitable places for
all residents to call home. This study was approved by the Roosevelt University Institutional Review
Board: IRB No. 2018-028.
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive