A felony conviction can trigger a wide range of federal, state and local restrictions and sanctions that may or may not have anything to do with the actual offense. Many people believe these collateral consequences are not only unnecessary but also harmful to those who have completed their prison sentence and want to re-enter society.
The North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission has studied how these indirect penalties have affected those in the state who have criminal convictions on their record.
Having a criminal record that anyone can view may be one of the most obstructing of consequences. One study showed that more than 60% of employers would prefer not to hire people with criminal records. However, there are a number of factors that affect hireability. While people with no criminal record are more likely to get a callback, individual skills and experience improve anyone’s chances.
The offense also affects the rate of callback; people with theft or violent felony convictions may have the hardest time finding a job immediately after prison. Reports show that employers feel more comfortable considering a person who has been out of prison for at least a couple of years.
After spending months or years in prison, a person with a felony drug conviction may not have the resources to find affordable housing or even cover the cost of basic living expenses. However, federal assistance in the form of Section 8 housing and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are not available to people with trafficking convictions.
These consequences hurt society as well as offenders, and efforts are ongoing to change the system. Until then, a plea deal or other defense may help someone facing trafficking charges to avoid some of the restrictions that follow a felony conviction.