The Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association sponsored a panel discussion at the ABA Annual Meeting this morning. The panel discussion began with a definition of collateral consequences: they exclude any sanction that a judge imposes as part of a sentence (i.e., probation). A collateral consequence would be an additional restriction aside from what the judge imposes, such as being disbarred from practicing law. Collateral consequences are barriers to reentry for those who are leaving incarceration.

Jonathan Gitlen, project director and lead attorney for the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction (, demonstrated his slick database, searchable by jurisdiction. From there, you can search by consequence category, offense category, or keyword. The website allows criminal and civil attorneys to determine which collateral consequences are triggered by particular categories of offenses, for affected individuals to understand the limits on their rights and opportunities, and for lawmakers and policy advocates to understand the full measure of a jurisdiction’s sanctions and disqualifications.

The panel also discussed the need for good rehabilitation programs after incarceration and the difficulty in getting a convicted felon a job after release.

“There is no prison solution to public safety,” said Joe Hynes, former district attorney of Kings County, New York. “There have to be alternatives that work.”

Hynes went on to say that judges should have the discretion to sentence how they want without mandatory minimums, because prosecutors have enough power without giving them more power.  Judges should have that same power.

“If you release someone from incarceration and you deny them opportunities and jobs, then you have a social problem to deal with,” continued Stephen Saltzburg, professor of law at George Washington University.





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