The idea that those convicted of crimes must repay their debt to society is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system. Yet like a predatory lender who burdens customers with loans they can never repay, our current system too often saddles convicts with societal debts so onerous and perpetual that they are impossible to leave behind. Laws preventing those who have completed their sentences from having their criminal records sealed or expunged hinder reintegration into society by compromising access to loans, housing and employment.
Collateral consequences that accompany a criminal conviction should be based on what the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) called “the magnificent human potential for growth and redemption.” Laws should allow those who have paid their debt to society to have their legal and social status fully restored. In accordance with the recommendations of the NACDL, we oppose the imposition of a collateral consequence unless it has a proven public safety benefit that substantially outweighs its burden on the convicted individual. We oppose the revocation of any benefit or opportunity that is not directly related to the crime committed. Employers, landlords and others should also offer opportunities to individuals with criminal records to facilitate their complete rehabilitation.