Many state and federal laws make it extremely difficult for people with criminal records to successfully transition from prison to community.
After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry, a two year study of the legal barriers faced by people with criminal records conducted by the Legal Action Center (LAC) found that over 630,000 people are released from state and federal prisons every year to face inadequate public support to help them re-integrate into society.
LAC lists the legal barriers to employment, housing, benefits, voting, access to criminal records, parenting, and driving that states put in place. These barriers often prevent people with criminal records from finding jobs and affordable housing, which can lead to recidivism as well as homelessness and poverty.
New Jersey falls under the worst category of legal barriers.
LAC recommends a number of policy chances to allow the successful reintegration into society of people with criminal records. Included in those recommendations are:
An arrest alone should never bar access to rights, necessities, and public benefits.
States should enact legislation to provide for the automatic sealing or expungement of any arrest that never led to conviction and of conviction records after an appropriate amount of time has elapsed. States also should issue certificates to qualified people with criminal records that acknowledge rehabilitation and lift automatic bars.
A conviction should never bar access to a citizen’s right to vote or to basic necessities such as food, clothing, housing, and education.