Statement of Commissioners Gail Heriot and Peter N. Kirsanow in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: Report on Collateral Consequences of Felony Convictions.
10 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2019
Date Written: 2019
On June 13, 2019, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report entitled Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Effects on Communities. The report concerns the many legal consequences (in addition to the obvious prison terms and fines) that attach when an individual is convicted of a felony. Examples include restrictions on owning a firearm, on qualifying for public housing and on holding certain jobs.
This Statement by individual Commissioners Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow was part of that report.
There is much bipartisan agreement that the number of collateral consequences accompanying a criminal conviction has grown too large. Ex-felons are sometimes prohibited from holding particular jobs for no good reason. Making it difficult for ex-felons to re-adjust to life on the outside is unwise. On the other hand, Commissioners Heriot & Kirsanow take the position here that the Commission’s majority is too quick to dismiss certain collateral consequences as serving no useful purpose. Some are justified. Reform in this area will need to proceed with great caution to separate the good from the bad.
Commissioners Heriot & Kirsanow also note with what they regard as the majority’s over-emphasis of the voting right issue. If the point of reform in this area is to help ex-felons re-adjust to outside world, collateral consequences that affect their ability obtain jobs, housing and the necessities of life need to receive priority. But the report devotes the largest number of pages and its most passionate rhetoric to voting rights.
It isn’t hard to see why elected officials might choose to emphasize voting rights over more pressing needs. But it is disappointing that the Commission would do so.
Keywords: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, civil rights, criminal convictions, voting rights, collateral consequences, felon disfranchisement
JEL Classification: A10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation