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Are federal restrictions making rehabilitation harder?




John-Michael Siebler comments on a new study from the Government Accountability Office:

“The report from the Government Accountability Office, published last week, contains the results of a yearlong studyof what are called federal ‘collateral consequences’: civil restrictions on the rights and entitlements of individuals with criminal convictions.

“The GAO found that 641 of those little-known rules could apply to individuals convicted of a nonviolent drug offense, defined as any federal drug offense that didn’t involve the attempted, threatened, or actual use of physical force—or a substantial risk that force might be used.

“And those rules cover so many parts of a person’s life—from employment and housing to the constitutional rights to vote and carry a firearm—that if administered arbitrarily, some may needlessly frustrate reintegration into society and encourage a return to crime. […]

“According to the GAO report, of those 641 federal collateral consequences for nonviolent drug offenders, 497 may be effective for life. Only 131 allow individuals to earn relief in meritorious cases—for example, by completing rehabilitation—without a pardon. […]

“Consider one example from the GAO report: A federal statute, 23 U.S.C. § 159, withdraws certain federal funds from states that fail to revoke or suspend the driver’s license of a person convicted of ‘any drug offense.’ That sanction applies whether or not the person used a car in the course of breaking the law.

“Why should government take away the driver’s license of a person who may need to drive to work or take his or her children to school, and who poses no extraordinary risk behind the wheel?” [The Daily Signal]


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