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September 21, 2012

Sen. Leahy Helps Launch ABA Database on Collateral Consequences of Conviction

Sen Pat Leah

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) speaks at the launch of the “National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction” website

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., helped unveil a new online database that allows users to search for state and federal laws that hinder people with criminal records from reintegrating successfully into society.

The _ Criminal Justice Section created the “National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction” website in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice.  The ABA and DOJ will use the database to gain a national perspective on the impact of such laws on an individual’s ability to find work, garner licenses or housing, obtain an education or keep their families together.

“Some of these sanctions can severely undermine the ability of those released from prison to become contributing members of society,” said Leahy, who sponsored the Second Chance Act that provides resources to groups seeking to improve the re-entry process for individuals with criminal records.

The website allows practicing lawyers, lawmakers and policy advocates to recognize the scope and impact of such laws and disqualifications, and to help affected people understand their rights and responsibilities.

“The issue behind this inventory is not an issue of prosecutor or defender, Republican or Democrat — it really is an issue of getting the information to the people who are going to make decisions,” said William Shepherd, chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section.

“It is crucial that policymakers understand the full set of collateral consequences already in the law, so that they know whether new sanctions are truly necessary or appropriate,” Leahy added.

Users can search and sort federal and state laws together or separately, by keyword and by category of consequence and triggering offense.  Users will also be able to compare jurisdictions and analyze national trends.

“This inventory affords us an opportunity to see the patterns across the country of collateral consequences of convictions,” said Greg Ridgeway, deputy director of the National Institute of Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The database hosts information on federal statutes and regulations, as well as similar data from nine states: Vermont, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina and New York.  Data from other states will be coming online over the next 18 months.