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Restoration of Rights
The consequences of conviction – specific legal barriers, generalized discrimination, and social stigma – have become more numerous and severe, more public, and more permanent. NACDL is proud to have several projects aimed at examining the collateral consequences of these convictions, including our 2014 report Collateral Damage, the 2018 Presidential Summit on collateral consequences, and our work to promote second chances at the state and federal level.
State Reform Reports and Programs Expungement Clinics Second Chance Month Additional Resources on Restoration of Rights
Collateral damage occurs in any war, including America's "War on Crime." Ironically, our zealous efforts to keep communities safe may have actually destabilized and divided them. The vast expansion of the nation's criminal legal system over the past 40 years has produced a corresponding increase in the number of people with a criminal record. One study estimated that around 77.7 million individuals - nearly one out of every three American adults - have a criminal record. At the same time, the collateral consequences of conviction have become more severe, more public and more permanent. These consequences affect virtually every aspect of human endeavor, including employment and licensing, housing, education, public benefits, credit and loans, immigration status, parental rights, interstate travel, and even volunteer opportunities. Collateral consequences can be a defendant's most serious punishment, permanently relegating a person to second-class status. An arrest alone can lead to permanent loss of opportunity.
It is time to reverse this course. It is time to recognize that America's infatuation with collateral consequences has produced unprecedented and unnecessary collateral damage to society and to the justice system. It is time to celebrate the magnificent human potential for growth and redemption. It is time to move from the era of collateral consequences to the era of restoration of rights and status.
"The country was built on the belief that each human being has limitless potential and worth. Everybody matters. We believe that even those who have struggled with a dark past can find brighter days ahead. One way we act on that belief is by helping former prisoners who've paid for their crimes -- we help them build new lives as productive members of our society."
- Former President, George W. Bush
Common Mechanisms to Restore Rights & Status
"Ban the Box" - Fair chance hiring policies help to remove barriers to employment by prohibiting an employer from inquiring into an applicant's criminal background until after a conditional offer of employment. The best "ban the box" policies do the following: (1) are applied statewide; (2) apply to both public and private employers; and (3) have standards limiting criminal history inquiries to recent convictions with a business nexus to the job.
Expungement/Sealing - Expungement results in deletion of any record that an arrest or criminal conviction ever occurred. A sealed record is removed from general review; the record still exists and can be reviewed under limited circumstances.
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Supported by NFCJ
Occupational Licensing - Reforms regulating the consideration of a criminal record by occupational licensing agencies.
Restoration of Voting Rights - An estimated 5.8 million Americans are denied the right to vote because of a felony conviction. Laws vary between states with some states permanently disenfranchising all people with felony convictions to states that restore voting rights upon completion of their sentence. Maine and Vermont are the only states that do not disenfranchise people with criminal convictions.
Clemency & Pardons - Clemency is the power of a Governor to commute a prison sentence to a lesser term than was initially imposed. A pardon is a form of clemency meant to indicate forgiveness of a crime.
Recent years have seen a national, bipartisan movement towards criminal justice reform that seeks to promote successful reentry and remove the collateral consequences of conviction faced by returning citizens. Across the country, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are supporting policies designed to improve reentry outcomes, including expanding expungement eligibility and record sealing, easing restrictions on occupational licensing, and working to reduce unnecessary barriers to the successful reentry of people returning from periods of incarceration. In 2021, 40 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government enacted over 150 pieces of legislation aimed at lessening the many obstacles to employment, housing, public benefits, voting, and many other areas of daily life that individuals with arrest and conviction histories face (Collateral Consequences Resource Center, 2022).
Consider joining NACDL’s State Criminal Justice Network (SCJN) to exchange information, share resources, and develop strategies for promoting criminal justice policies that offer meaningful second chances for formerly incarcerated individuals.
State Criminal Justice Network
NACDL is proud to have several projects aimed at examining the collateral consequences of these convictions. The goal is to provide policy recommendations and laud existing best practices that jurisdictions can engage in to effectively decrease the economic, political, and social stigmas associated with a criminal conviction.
Coalition Building to Restore Rights & Status
Free to Drive Coalition - Convened by the Fines & Fees Justice Center and Civil Rights Corps, the Free to Drive Coalition (of which NACDL is a member) is committed to the principle that restrictions on driving privileges - including suspensions, revocations, or renewals of driver's licenses or registration - should never be used to coerce debt payment or punish people who don't appear in court.
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Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!
Fully Free: The Campaign to End Permanent Punishments - NACDL is a coalition partner of Fully Free: The Campaign to End Permanent Punishments. The campaign works to dismantle "the prison after the prison," the long-lasting barriers to housing, employment, education, civic engagement, and more faced by the estimated 3.3 million adults in Illinois who have been arrested or convicted of a crime.
Restoration of Rights Project
The Restoration of Rights Project (RP) is a free online resource that includes summaries and analyses of state and federal law relating to restoration of rights and status following arrest or conviction. Maintained and regularly updated by the Collateral Consequences Resource Center (CCRC), the RRP covers four primary topics: civil and firearms rights; pardons; expungement and other record relief; and employment and licensing. A national page summarizes each jurisdiction’s laws, state-by-state profiles provide in-depth information, and 50-state comparison pages include charts and state-by-state summaries. CCRC’s work on the RRP and its derivative projects is supported by a grant from Arnold Ventures.
Restoration of Rights Project
Comprehensive Text on Collateral Consequences
NACDL Reports on Collateral Consequences
On August 23–25, 2018, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) hosted its 17th Annual State Criminal Justice Network (SCJN) Conference and 2nd Annual Presidential Summit in Atlanta, Georgia — Shattering the Shackles of Collateral Consequences: Exploring Moral Principles and Economic Innovations to Restore Rights and Opportunity. On June 4, 2019, NACDL released its conference report and videos of the conference.
Shattering the Shackles Report
On Thursday May 29, 2014, NACDL launched Collateral Damage America's Failure to Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime - A Roadmap to Restore Rights and Status After Arrest or Conviction.
Over 100 people attended the report launch. Poignant testimony was provided by Lamont Carey, a business owner and individual with a conviction; several policy analysts; former Governor Robert Ehrlich; former Congressman J.C. Watts; and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik who also has a conviction on his record.
Restoration of Rights Task Force Collateral Damage Report & Videos
Do you know that April is recognized as Second Chance Month?
Second Chance Month is a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the obstacles faced by over 70 million Americans with a criminal record and unlock opportunities for them to succeed. Since its inception in 2017, NACDL has been activitely involved in hosting activities and providing opportunities for its members to become engaged.
- "Newsom vowed to pardon LGBTQ Californians. Only one living person has benefited,"
- "More states appear poised to expand voting access for people who were incarcerated,"
- "55,000 non-incarcerated felons will soon be eligible to vote in Minnesota,"
Restoration of Rights News Releases
News Release ~ 06/28/2017
Joint Announcement: Restoration of Rights Project -- The Collateral Consequences Resource Center and its partner organizations, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and the National HIRE Network, are pleased to announce the launch of the newly expanded and fully updated Restoration of Rights Project.
News Release ~ 12/21/2015
Nation's Criminal Defense Bar Praises New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's "Historic" Blanket Pardon Affecting Thousands of Non-Violent, Former Teenage Offenders -- Washington, DC (Dec. 21, 2015) – Today, the Office of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo officially announced a plan to pardon many thousands of people who were convicted of a misdemeanor or a non-violent felony at the age of 16 or 17, but who have had no other convictions since. The criteria that applicants must meet are provided here.
News Release ~ 10/01/2015
Bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act Introduced; Nation's Criminal Defense Bar Calls Certain Provisions "An Important Move In The Right Direction" -- Washington, DC (Oct. 1, 2015) – This morning, in action unprecedented in recent decades, a broadly bipartisan group of U.S. Senators announced the introduction of the "Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act," a bill that appears to include certain provisions aimed at reversing America's overly harsh, overburdened and ineffective criminal justice system.
Restoration of Rights Media Items
Rights Restoration and the Criminalization of Voting [Campaign Legal Center webinar]
Over 5 million Americans are currently silenced in our democracy because of a past felony conviction. This level of disenfranchisement is a product of legislation enacted during the Reconstruction period which intentionally sought to strip Black Americans of their newfound freedom. Today, these laws continue to disproportionately impact Black and brown voters. The rights restoration process is confusing, varies by state and is often burdensome. Beyond the 5 million Americans who cannot vote because of a past felony conviction, there are as many as 19 million Americans with felony convictions who can vote, but may not know it, because of rampant misinformation and poor administration.
Check out Campaign Legal Center's free, easy-to-use tool—Restore Your Vote—that has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans with past felony convictions understand their eligibility to vote.
Panelists: Blair Bowie Director of Campaign Legal Center's Restore Your Vote project; Dawn Harrington of Free Hearts; Ramon "Ray" de la Cabada, co-chair of NACDL's Criminalization of Voting Rights Committee; and moderated by The Guardian's Sam Levine, a national reporter covering voting rights in the US
Systemic Juror Exclusion [webinar]
Research has shown that diverse juries do their job better. Racially diverse juries deliberate longer, get more facts correct, rectify more errors, are more willing to discuss issues of race, and consider a broader range of evidence. In short, they get it right more often. In addition, public confidence in the accuracy, fairness, and legitimacy of a jury’s decision increases substantially when the jury that rendered the verdict reflects the community it is supposed to be representing.
However, across the country our nation’s juries fail to represent the racial, ethnic, experiential, and socio-economic diversity of the communities from which they are drawn. While a variety of factors contribute to these disparities, one of the most impactful is the exclusion of those with prior criminal convictions. According to Prison Policy Initiative, laws that exclude individuals with a criminal record from serving on a jury bar more than 20 million individuals from jury service.
The recognition of the benefits of diverse juries has spurred some states to take proactive steps, revisiting policies that disenfranchise people with felony convictions and prohibit them from serving on juries. But what happens when the policy shift is met with deficient implementation practices? On Thursday, April 27th, 2023, NACDL hosted, “Systemic Juror Exclusion: How States Continue to Disenfranchise Prospective Jurors Through Improper Policy Implementation.” In this webinar, featuring Professor James Binnall and Attorney Will Snowden, learn how California and Louisiana have made such changes, but may be continuing to exclude people with felony convictions because of deficient summonses as well as failure to notify prospective jurors of their eligibility.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW)
Guaranteeing Voting Rights to People with Felony Convictions
The panel was moderated by Nicole D. Porter, Senior Director of Advocacy at The Sentencing Project, and featured Washington State Representative Tarra Simmons, League of Women Voters of Florida President Cecile Scoon, and James Carpenter, More Than Our Crimes.
Accused of Voting Illegally, Florida Man Asks “What Did I Do Wrong?” by Jacqueline Quyn, CBS Miami, September 9, 2022.
Voting With a Criminal Record in Florida: What You Need to Know, Legal Defense Fund, Brennan Center for Justice, ACLU Florida, and ACLU, August 2022.
New National Poll shows Majority Favor Guaranteed Right to Vote for All, The Sentencing Project, August 18, 2022.
State Voting Rights Briefs, The Sentencing Project, January 2022.
Voting Rights in the Era of Mass Incarceration: A Primer, The Sentencing Project, July 28, 2021.
Expanding Voting Rights to All Citizens in the Era of Mass Incarceration, The Sentencing Project, March 2021.
Who Must Pay to Regain the Vote? A 50-State Survey, Collateral Consequences Resource Center, November 2020.
Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights Due to a Felony Conviction, The Sentencing Project, October 2020.
Jim Crow's Lasting Legacy at the Ballot Box, The Marshall Project, August 2018.
Racism & Felony Disenfranchisement: An Intertwined History, Brennan Center for Justice, May 2017.