Criminology Assignment

Ex-offenders’ Rights

Contents

Introduction. 2

Ex-offenders’ Voting Rights. 2

Ex-offenders’ Employment Rights. 4

Felon Jury Exclusion. 6

Right to Possess Firearms. 7

Recommendations to Ex-offender Rights. 9

Conclusion. 11

Introduction

Ex-offenders are subjected to vast and increasingly unnavigable mandatory exclusions from a range of opportunities. Ex-offenders end up losing civil rights, voting amongst other notable barriers to their employment. This poses a major hindrance to their re-entry, based on the challenges they encounter for effective transitioning. Upon release, ex-convicts require access to educational aid, social service programs, and employment. Withdrawal of their rights only exacerbates the situation, increasing the overall risk of recidivism. The lack of economic and social support reduces the choices they may make, thus rendering ex-offenders vulnerable due to the denial of their rights. Notably, the failed reintegration renders a negative impact by increasing the burden to society. Upon imprisonment, the offenders temporarily lose hold of their liberty, with their rights curtailed to protect the wellbeing of society. The United States is described as being inhospitable to ex-offenders, manifested through the vast network of formal and informal sanctions. The sanctions are instituted such that the ex-offenders continue serving a lifelong sentence, even after their release. Some of the collateral consequences have legal justification backing them. However, the majority of them can hardly be validated, thus striking a series of contention.

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Ex-offenders’ Voting Rights

Ex-offenders are denied the right to vote on grounds that they are dishonest and disreputable. Findings from a study report over five million people have been adversely affected by the regulation, hence lost their right to vote. This issue is attributed to racial discrimination, which has infiltrated the American society. It began during the racist backlash in the South during the Reconstruction era. At that time, former slave owners were compelled to endure the sight of former slaves’ queuing to vote at the polling places, while holding seats in state legislatures. Consequently, the Southern states resolved to institute measures which would ensure that the black citizens are hardly involved in the voting process. Thus, it was a favorable breeding ground for imposing the restrictions on ex-offenders. The crimes were selected such that they would have a major effect on African Americans, while the whites were exempted. Accordingly, the Supreme Court continues insisting how ex-offender disenfranchisement is not a punishment. Any individual with a felony record is subjected to a heightened degree of formal and informal scrutiny, hence bear the burden of invisible punishments despite completion of their jail term. Among the 48 states, only 13 automatically restore ex-offender voting rights following their release from prison. Twenty states limit those on felony convictions from voting while they are on probation. For instance, Florida demands that all ex-offenderspetition the Board of Executive Clemency, where their rights will be restored. Occasionally, the entire process is quite lengthy, and sometimes becomes impossible due to the unrealistic requirements. Ex-offenders perceive the limitation as a punishment, intended to deter them from exercising their human right. A study highlighted the effects of withdrawing the right to vote. Majority of the participants adopted a fatalistic approach, citing how once one ended up as an ex-offender, they became accustomed to restricted opportunities beyond their control. The punishment of the loss of voting rights aims to ascertain the ex-offenders feel ashamed of their criminal actions, thus act as a deterring mechanism.

 Currently, the narrative has changed, with the restriction only imposed to crimes under the moral turpitude category. In states like Alaska, specific forms of felonies make one ineligible to vote while they are in prison, including assault, arson, bribery and burglary. However, upon the completion of all supervised release, the voting rights are automatically restored. The regulations in Columbia differ, as an individual’s right to register and vote is not denied from any resident, despite being convicted of a felony. The right is extended to all persons, regardless of whether they are incarcerated. Majority of the states’ demand ex-offenders to re-register for them to vote. Other instances require the ex-offenders to go to their state representative, and convince them to personally author a bill which will restore the vote to the individual. Thereafter, both houses of the legislature are expected to pass the bill. The cumbersome process dissuades majority of the ex-offenders, making them unconcerned with their right to vote.

Ex-offenders’ Employment Rights

Despite the broad consensus on the importance of ex-offenders need to work, there are several barriers hindering the accomplishment of this feat. Primarily, property rights are perceived as fundamental human rights, which establish the basis of a free and democratic society. While the rights may be well outlined by the constitution and laws, they do not qualify as absolute rights. There are instances in which the government is expected to intervene for the ultimate good of the society. Prior employment, employers usually conduct background checks to ascertain the candidate’s integrity. This entails screening the applicants on grounds of characteristics that seem to predict previous criminal activity. Imperfect information from the screening translates to instances of false-positive assessments of previous criminality. This right is usually withheld due to the level of risk it poses to the employer. Employers may be held liable for criminal actions of their employees, under grounds of negligent hiring. Thus, employers bear the blame of risking exposure of the public to potentially dangerous individuals.

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Employment is also influenced by the duration of the ex-offender’ stay in prison. Majority of them have poor skills which mismatch the mandatory requirements of the job description, thus curtailing them. The work experience conflicts with the skills and credentials sought by the employer, even in cases of unskilled jobs. While other settings require little formal skill, a common requirement from all employers is the job readiness. Even on instances where there are no criminal records, ex-offenders experiences challenges in getting hold of job opportunities. The nature of some occupations are generally limiting considering they are legally closed for persons with felony convictions under the state, and even federal law. Such professions include those demanding contact with children, firms providing security services and health services. Notably, some professions demand significant customer contact, and handling of expensive merchandise, where the employer cannot risk to compromise their business. This illuminates why employers take criminal background checks seriously in the making of hiring decisions. Employers need to assess the legitimate risk of harm to property or safety brought about by the presence of the ex-offender in the organization. The nature of the job determines the depth of damage the firm should expect, hence assigned to less intense duties. Additionally, employer bias is rooted in the assumption of how ex-offenders will increase the burden, compelling the company to complete work-release oriented forms which involve dealing with probation and parole officers. The persistent stigmas is quite difficult to eliminate, ex-offenders are naturally placed at a disadvantage.

Despite the inexistence of federal law prohibiting employment discrimination against ex-offenders, the criminal justice system has become cognizant of the injustices that pertain to it. The courts rarely consider cases involving employers that employ ex-offenders that pose an unreasonable risk to others. Courts are on the neck of employers, operating under negligent hiring, supervision laws and retention. Accordingly, Title VII has provisions which offer relief to ex-offenders facing discrimination in the employment arena. It prohibits the disparate treatment on the employment of ex-offenders, regardless of factors like race, age. An employer is only permitted to provide legitimate reasons, accounting for their decision making, which ought to be in alignment with the business necessity. Under negligent hiring, the ultimate goal is to hinder ex-offender employment. Instances of negligent hiring are crucial in gauging the employer’s level of accountability, thus the decision to not hire a person with criminal records. Proposals have been brought forth, aiming to safeguard ex-offenders from unwarranted discrimination. Primarily, amendment of Title VII to incorporate “non-disqualifying criminal records” as a protected characteristic will generate tremendous outcomes. Over the years, the characteristic has remained adamant to change. This aids in intervening in scenarios where there is no relation between criminal history and job qualifications.

Felon Jury Exclusion

Eight percent of the current American population possess a criminal record. The federal court systems have imposed legal restrictions limiting ex-offenders from serving as jurors, hampering them from service in their entire lifetime. Ex-offenders are prohibited from serving in any type of jury; civil, criminal or grand. The rule is grounded on two rationales to justify the exclusion of the ex-offenders. Primarily, ex-offenders are purported to lack the requisite character and morals for them to serve in the jury. Once an individual has been convicted, their reputation is permanently marred by their involvement in criminal activity.          There is a higher probability that the ex-convicts will flout the law, thus ignoring instructions when deciding cases. Additionally, due to the fear of bias, ex-offenders are likely to sympathize with criminal defendants, which ultimately harbors resentment towards the prosecution. Furthermore, it reduces the efficiency of the criminal justice system, compelling them to avoid justice. The sanctity of the criminal justice system is highly esteemed. Thus, it is perceived as an approach to safeguard the integrity of the adjudicative process. Given the opportunity to serve, ex-offenders have an increased probability to acquit in all instances, which destroys the impartiality of the jury process on a long term. Accordingly, ex-offenders tend to be biased against the government, which affects the quality of the decision making process. Thus, they naturally become inclined to base their judgments from a point of compassion. The integration of traditional practices has proven to make felon jury exclusion the most pervasive form of civic marginalization. Due to the demanding needs ex-offenders may have, jurors may compromise the integrity of their decisions, due to the motivation from selfish reasons. Therefore, inclusion may serve to increase the probability of successful reentry.

Right to Possess Firearms

Ex-offenders are prohibited from possessing firearms, and is punishable by a prison sentence. If the ex-offender was convicted of a violent felony, especially one involving a firearm, they ultimately lose the right to possessing a firearm. This is attributed to minimizing the likelihood of committing a repeat offense. Once an individual is classified as an ex-offender, they have openly demonstrated a greater willingness to do wrong, hence validate that they cannot be trusted to possess firearms. Despite the fact that the ex-offender did not commit a violent crime initially, the next time they are more probable to be carrying guns during the subsequent offenses. The anti-gun laws are simply instituted to benefit the entire society, hence reducing criminal activity, especially those involving violence. Notably, ex-convicts are highly prone to break the law, as earlier demonstrated by their disobedience. The statistics back up this argument, as portrayed by the increasing recidivism rates. Thus, prohibition of firearms intends to establish a reasonable hedge against the risk of the violent use of firearms. Furthermore, it has proven to create a buffer of interference and limitation, which ultimately benefits the society, in comparison to the level of harm.

Imprisonment of convicts eventually translates into a series of issues, which bring about social stigma. Even when employed, ex-offenders receive lower wages, delayed wage growth and disqualification from stable institutions. This illuminates why ex-offenders possess a strong self-preservation motivation to possess firearms. Prohibition of firearms is classified as an extension of the punishment, even following their release from prisons and jail. It is possible for an ex-offenders rights to own a gun to be restored. This arises when the crime which the ex-convict was convicted of gets expunged, or withdrawn from their criminal record. Additionally, restoration of gun possession rights is permitted when the ex-offender has had their civil rights restored. Despite being a tiresome process, an ex-offender may be forced to wait for some considerable time to achieve a clean criminal record. There exists possibilities where an ex-offender’s right to firearms can be restored under state law, while still subject to federal prohibition at the same time. The procedure for one to seek exemption from federal prohibition is quite engaging, and varies from state to state. The restrictions demotivate ex-offenders from gaining their interest to repossess firearms, and opt to acquire the firearms using frivolous means, despite the expenses involved. On grounds of hunting or self-protection, ex-offenders are limited to a five year period, which is the period they have to stay without being in possession of firearms. The duration is ideal for ex-offenders, as it proves that they have been rehabilitated, and changed their character. Notably, most incidences of recidivism occur within the first two years of release.

Recommendations to Ex-offender Rights

A plethora of efforts have been advocated by policymakers, seeking to minimize the barriers that ex-offenders face. The efforts are targeted at improving the ease at which they re-enter into the society, and adjust effectively. It is necessary for the society to reconsider the needs of ex-offenders, especially at the critical moment when they are reintegrating into mainstream society. Public policies ought to be implemented to encourage the employment of ex-offenders. Employers should conduct assessment of individuals against the public policy backdrop, which is favorable for the employment of ex-offenders. The policy should adopt a similar approach to that of the Second Chance Act of 2007. The ultimate goal is to reduce the prevalence of recidivism and boost security at a national level. The strategy will attract the attention of potential employers to focus on helping the ex-offenders to become useful members of the society. Considering not all crimes bear the same measure of gravity, employers need to scrutinize the criminal record. Featuring in the criminal record should not automatically disqualify one, but should be on legitimate grounds. Employers ought to take the mandate and weigh the pertinent factors relating to the criminal record. A crucial aspect worth consideration is the elapsed duration since the offense was committed. Longer spans imply the offense is less probative, hence the ex-offender may have reached redemption point. Additional factors for consideration include the intensity of the crime, frequency and the surrounding facts.

Banning the box refers to a legislation that prohibits employers from conducting criminal background checks, until the client completes interviews with the employer. The goal is to control the timing of conducting investigations, hence allowing the ex-offender to be analyzed from a normal standpoint, similar to that of other applicants. Furthermore, the policy has innumerable benefits to offer to the ex-offender, including the provision of greater incentives to engage in the job application process. Employers ought to establish the link between the offense and the nature of the job. If the crime committed has no direct relationship with the job position, it is advisable to provide them with the benefit of doubt, while imposing strict regulations to monitor their performance. Notably, a position-specific policy can be rendered overboard, especially in instances where the employee’s circumstances are limited, hence limiting room to engage in crime. Accordingly, employers ought to consider the legitimate risk of harm, either to property or safety. Depending on the client base which the ex-offender will interact with closely, the employer needs to outweigh. Based on negligent hiring, the tort should be modified such that it is employer friendly.

Regarding public assistance, ex-offenders are in dire need of the social and welfare benefits. Congress should focus on availing subsistence benefits to permit ex-offenders to meet their basic needs, while exercising economic autonomy to support themselves alongside their families. Supporting ex-offenders will go a long way in reducing the rate of recidivism, as they readjust in the society. All ex-offenders should be eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, for a period of three months until they stabilize. Public housing also needs to be readily available, to eliminate the rejection they face when landlords screen applicants based on their criminal history. Providing ex-offenders with their space instills a sense of independence, even as they work towards amending their lives. For the juveniles, the role of education and vocational training cannot be underestimated. It focuses on empowering them, instead of denying them the only opportunity which can improve the quality of their lives. Through education, ex-offenders gain marketable skills that allow them to gain traction in their various lines of employment.

The right to vote is fundamental to the democracy of the United States, hence ought to be guaranteed to every citizen. Hindering ex-offenders from voting aggravates the situation by contributing towards the racial divide polarizing the country. Restoration of voting rights for ex-offenders is a necessary provision. Annually, the incarcerated population account for almost 18% of the overall population. This implies that 6.2 million citizens are barred from exercising their right to vote. However, several conditions ought to be fulfilled for ex-offenders to vote, including upon the completion of their sentences. The regulation reverses former law which imposed a lifetime ban on ex-offender voting. Additionally, courts could intervene by minimizing felony conviction to misdemeanor, or expunging the conviction. Courts play a pivotal role in promoting the restoration of voting rights. Involvement of courts in petitions will aid in the restoration of civil rights, which eases the reduction of offenses, based on the severity. Furthermore, when courts engage in certifying complete sentences, it aids in ascertaining that there are no active and pending charges remaining. Currently, 22 states permit ex-offenders to register to vote following the completion of their entire sentence, inclusive of parole, incarceration and probation.

Conclusion

Ex-offender rights have been violated in the United States, rendering them as if still in prison continuing serving their terms. Additionally, the ex-offenders experience challenges as they attempt to reintegrate into society. However, it becomes difficult to transition effectively with the withdrawal of social benefits, the right to vote, possession of firearms, and barriers to employment. Denial of the right to vote impacts the outcome of the elections, considering ex-offenders account for a huge proportion of the US population. Withdrawal of social benefits increases the stress levels, which compels the ex-offenders to resort to crime, hence an increased the rate of recidivism. The barriers to employment are also limiting in nature, by getting in the way of their efforts. In case ex-offenders manage to become employed, they receive low wages, which can hardly fend for their individual and family’s needs. Thus, it is high time for the United States to reconsider ex-offender rights, and grant them an opportunity similar to other citizens.

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