Even after someone has served their sentence for a criminal conviction, they may be restricted from certain jobs or occupations, restricted from receiving certain government benefits, denied access to certain educational programs or types of housing, and remain under other penalties or consequences. Returning citizens, their families and the professionals who work with them may not even be aware of or understand these restrictions or know which ones apply or don't apply to their situation.
The American Bar Association has created a new online, searchable database containing information on federal and state restrictions on employment, housing, education, voting rights, family/parental rights, occupational licenses, government benefits and other restrictions on people convicted of various crimes. The ABA created this database as part of an effort to document the extensive and often confusing federal and state laws that impose "collateral consequences" of a criminal conviction.
The ABA site defines "collateral consequences" this way:
"Collateral consequences are the penalties, disabilities, or disadvantages imposed upon a person as a result of a criminal conviction, either automatically by operation of law or by authorized action of an administrative agency or court on a case by case basis. Collateral consequences are distinguished from the direct consequences imposed as part of the court's judgment at sentencing, which include terms of imprisonment or community supervision, or fines. Put another way, collateral consequences are opportunities and benefits that are no longer fully available to a person, or legal restrictions a person may operate under, because of their criminal conviction." (from the "User Guide / Frequently Asked Questions" document)
At this point, the database contains information on collateral consequences in 9 states. They will continue to document and upload information on other states in the coming weeks and months.