A Judge’s Critique of Collateral Consequences

As the New York Times reported at length this week, Judge Block, of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, sentenced a young woman convicted of a drug felony to probation, saying that the collateral consequences of the conviction were punishment enough – no prison necessary. The Judge observed that such consequences served “no useful function other than to further punish criminal defendants after they have completed their court-imposed sentences.” He noted that there were nearly 50,000 federal and state statutes and regulations that imposed penalties on felons. Those penalties — denial of government benefits, ineligibility for public housing, suspension of student loans, revocation or suspension of driver’s licenses — can have devastating effects, he wrote, adding that they may be “particularly disruptive to an ex-convict’s efforts at rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”

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