Eliminating Barriers-Part 1

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Saturday - August 15, 2015.

A new report from The Center for American Progress, titled "One Strike and You're Out" indicates that as many as one in three Americans now has a criminal record, and these criminal records result in a wide range of collateral consequences that limit employment, access to housing, parental rights, voting rights, access to public benefits and a variety of other restrictions and limitations.  

According to the report, "Today, a criminal record serves as both a direct cause and consequence of poverty." (Vallas and Dietrich, December 2014, p. 1)  The report also points out that for many people, their criminal record is for minor offenses or for an arrest for which they were never convicted. Yet, even when the details of someone's criminal record are clearly not for serious or violent offenses, the collateral consequences of that record can impact a person's life in myriad ways, often for many years or even decades after the offense occurred.

Says the report, "The lifelong consequences of having a criminal record - and the stigma that accompanies one - stand in stark contrast to research on 'redemption' that documents that once an individual with a prior nonviolent conviction has stayed crime free for three to four years, that person's risk of recidivism is no different from the risk of arrest for the general population. Put differently, people are treated as criminals long after they pose any significant risk of committing further crimes - making it difficult for many to move on with their lies and achieve basic economic security, let alone have a shot at upward mobility." (Vallas and Dietrich, December 2014, p. 2) 

The Center's report maps out clear strategies and recommendations for employers, education providers, local government agencies and others to take action to address these collateral consequences to "ensure that a criminal record does not consign an individual to a  life of poverty."

Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of articles on the recommendations mapped out in this report.

The Center for American Progress is "a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just, and free America that ensures opportunity for all."

About the Author

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder serves as the Executive Director of the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO). She was a featured TEDx speaker at the first-ever TEDx event in Lancaster.  http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Breaking-out-of-prison-thinking 

She is an NIC-certified Offender Workforce Development Specialist, a certified Global Career Development Facilitator, and a certified instructor for the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Healing Communities model. She is also a trained restorative justice mediator.

Prior to Melanie's involvement with the RMO, she spent several years researching and writing the book Grace Goes to Prison: An Inspiring Story of Hope and Humanity (Brethren Press, 2009), which tells the true story of a woman who volunteered in Pennsylvania's state prisons for over 30 years, creating inmate education and reentry programs based on principles of restorative justice. After Grace Goes to Prison was published, Melanie traveled throughout the United States, doing speaking engagements and meeting with other reentry and restorative justice professionals to discuss criminal justice issues and exchange information and ideas.