By Dee G. Rainer, JD
After advocating for others for almost a decade as a criminal state and federal defense attorney, I found myself on the other side of the table as a defendant.
As a first time, non-violent offender, I was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment. I ultimately served 1yr and ten days and placed on 3yrs probation.
I served my time, yet my rights were not restored because of the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions. Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions, as defined by www.USLegal.com, are “the various consequences beyond the terms of the conviction under federal and state laws…….it is the result of the arrest, prosecution or conviction that is not part of the sentence imposed.” In layman terms, collateral consequences of criminal convictions are imposed or are the result of the conviction or arrest. For example – losing voting rights, losing public housing or other supportive services, losing professional licenses, not being able to obtain federal student loans, and probation, to name a few. The American Bar Association, under its Criminal Law Section, has a listing of over 45,000 national and state statutes and regulations broken down by state that impose collateral consequences of convictions upon people convicted of a crime.
If the legal system’s purpose is to return us to the place we were before incarceration through REHABILITATION with an even greater sense of ACCOUNTABILITY to self and our communities, we must be able to come full circle and be made whole again. For instance, if the system is genuinely about rehabilitation, why couldn’t I be reinstated by the Bar and resume my practice of law upon release? Why can’t barbers and beauticians be relicensed upon release? Why aren’t voting rights restored immediately upon release?
I am in favor of reducing recidivism, increasing public safety, and economic growth; however, to accomplish this, barriers to housing, employment, and supportive services must be removed for returning citizens to have successful reintegration. Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions are an unnecessary barrier to successful rehabilitation.
We must create systems that serve this population more effectively, and we must have the desire to provide the resources to restore human dignity and human potential to all returning citizens.
I am a believer that there are no extraordinary people. I believe that people are given exceptional opportunities. Every Voter in the United States has the remarkable opportunity to affect legislation or repeal legislation that will do away with all collateral consequences of criminal convictions.
We must become a Nation of Second Chances! Where “Time Served” Means “Time Served” by removing unnecessary barriers to successful reintegration for our returning citizens.
Dee G. Rainer, JD
Former State and Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer; and
Committed Criminal Justice Reform Advocate;
The criminal justice system has directly impacted that;