Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Collateral Consequences Work Group forms to look at reentry barriers for offenders

The newly formed Collateral Consequences Work Group held its first organizational meeting in April. The work group was initiated to assist the bipartisan efforts of Senators John Coghill (R),  Fred Dyson (R), Johnny Ellis (D), and Hollis French (D) to reduce recidivism in Alaska.

The work group has been asked to look for public safety-oriented strategies to mitigate statutory and regulatory barriers to offender reentry. Former Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner Carmen Gutierrez organized the work group and serves as chair.

Individuals convicted of certain offenses are barred from particular jobs and licenses, and may be prohibited from receiving specific types of government benefits, even though the offender has completed his/her sentence. These barriers to reentry to the community are a grave concern. Alaska currently has 492 statutes and regulations that create a collateral consequence for an offender.

Because of the bipartisan effort in Alaska, the director of the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction Project is set to next inventory Alaska's 492 statutes and regulations.
Congress directed the National Institute of Justice to collect and study collateral consequences in all U.S. jurisdictions, and NIJ selected the American Bar Association (ABA) Criminal Justice Section to perform the necessary research and analysis.  The results are now being made available through an interactive website. Collateral consequences for seventeen states and the federal system have been uploaded to the website. The project target completion date is April 2014.

The goal of the work group is outlined in the Task Force's Five-Year Prisoner Reentry Strategic Plan, 2011-2016: examine current employment restrictions and other collateral consequences for offenders, identify alternatives as recommendations to more carefully tailor restrictions to public safety that are appropriate to Alaska, and address ways of reducing liability of employers and landlords.

Work group members include:
  • Carmen Gutierrez, Chair
  • Deb Periman, UAA Justice Center
  • Mary Geddes, former Assistant U.S. Federal Defender
  • Susie Dosik, Alaska Judicial Council
  • Doug Wooliver, Alaska Court System

Prof. Periman outlined some of the collateral consequences facing offenders in Alaska in a 2011 Alaska Justice Forum article, "Prisoner Reentry and the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act."