What are collateral consequences?

If you’ve been convicted of a felony in Wheeling, you know firsthand that the legal consequences can be extremely severe. In addition to things like fines and jail time, convicted felons are also subjected to something known as collateral consequences. These effects can reach far beyond the courtroom, and may even result in further criminal convictions down the line.

The Wall Street Journal describes collateral consequences as civil sanctions that result from a felony conviction. These sanctions can affect everything from voting to acquiring gainful employment. In terms of employment, many employers utilize background checks to inquire about past criminality, and as a result ex-felons have a much higher unemployment rate than the rest of the population. In fact, up to 75 percent of those with a prior criminal conviction have difficulty finding employment during the first year after they are released.

Additionally, ex-felons who are unable to secure employment often have much higher recidivism rates. Studies have found this to be the case with violent and non-violent offenders. Education also plays a role in whether not an ex-convict will reoffend, which underscores the importance of post-conviction lifestyles in the wake of one’s release.

There are currently as many 46,000 civil sanctions related to criminal convictions on the books. The vast majority of these sanctions (as much as 70 percent by some tallies) are linked to matters related to employment. Of course, this number can be considered a conservative estimate when taking into account ordinances that may exist on the local level. Recent estimates posit that there are currently 1.5 million inmates, a number which has greatly increased over a 40 year span.

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