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Do Some Laws Keep Ex-Convicts From Finding Work?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 08, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you're an ex-convict, work can be elusive, especially considering the existence of laws that experts call the collateral consequences of conviction.

Collateral consequences are essentially laws that can keep ex-convicts from receiving public assistance and job licenses, which can be devastating and difficult to recover from.

Both state and federal laws restrict the rights of ex-convicts, and some of these laws have created barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated citizens.

Are these laws helping or hurting?

There certainly are a lot of laws in general, regardless if they are actually beneficial. In total, there are about 38,000 statutes that have collateral consequences for ex-felons, according to the ABA News Service. According to the ABA Collateral Consequences of Conviction Project, about 84% of them are related to employment.

Some of the federal regulations also prohibit convicted felons from ever enlisting in the armed forces. And, those who are convicted of deceptive crimes like money laundering cannot participate in the affairs of a federally insured depository institution, like a bank.

These collateral consequences of convictions also affect prisoners' civil rights. While employment is a big issue, not all the restrictions are related to employment. Under federal law, states are also authorized to pass legislation on whether or not ex-convicts have the right to vote.

These types of restrictions could serve to set up barriers toward ex-cons turning their life around.

For example, restrictions on a convict's work can have long-term financial consequences, which is why some may want to return to a life of crime. For an ex-con, the work restrictions can mean around an 11% reduction in wages. Experts say that by denying entry into the workforce, ex-convicts can actually have a more difficult time integrating into society, harming public safety as a whole, according to the ABA News Service.

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