Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions essay

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Purpose, problem, and questions of the research study:

We are now being confronted by the consequences of the incarceration explosion of the 1980s and 1990s. This post-incarceration crisis has essentially been occasioned by the myriads of collateral consequences that thousands of people exiting the correctional facilities of the US are been faced with. In this regard I am referring to ineligibility for students' loans, federal welfare benefits, employment opportunities, and public housing that makes up collateral consequences that normally stems from a conviction in the United States justice criminal justice system (Pinard, 2010). It is in this backdrop that this article seeks to examine the unforeseen costs of this explosion of collateral effects in the US, and the extent to which they frustrate the ability of the persons carrying the baggage of criminal convictions in reintegrating and reentering into the society, recovering from their legal transgression, and lastly, leading a productive life after the incarceration (Pinard, 2010).

Design of the study:

In order to address these questions this article employs a comparative sturdy that basically compares these consequences with other countries that have similar experiences in their criminal justice system with the United States.  It is important to understand that this kind of a comparative study is not the first of its own; rather it has been preceded by similar ones which unfortunately have not been as comprehensive in their approach as this particular one. The comprehensiveness in approach of this comparative study stems from the way it explores and incorporates the harshness and the permanence of these consequences, while putting them into context with those of England, Canada, Wales, and South Africa. The use of the comparative analysis of this case is informed by the well-known utility and relevance of using comparative perspectives, something that lawyers and legal scholars have perfected in interpreting constitutional issues and litigating (Pinard, 2010).

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By using these perspectives in the context of collateral consequences the researcher hope to get a broader framework that will accord the policy debate an understanding of the purposes and the implication of collateral consequences. By using comparative analysis we expect to improve our understanding of the variability of impact of policies of criminal justice on various social groups. The rationale for choosing these comparison counties in this comparative analysis rest in their similarities that is better seen in light of their close related histories of racial marginalization, near similar criminal justice system, and almost same level of criminal concerns (Pinard, 2010).        

In this case the research successfully established the connection among dignity, race, and collateral consequences in US and set out the different barriers to comparative exploration of these consequences. By getting an understanding of how a number of countries that have a related criminal justice system deal with the problem of the reentering population, and especially on how they handle the probable barrier to successful reentry, this article put the United States at the path to full recovery from this problem of collateral consequences.          

Operational definition used by the researcher:

There are a number of items that have been measured in this research in order to shed light on the collateral consequences that are being occasioned by convictions in the United States. The very first of these items that has to be measured in this case is the scope of the collateral consequences in the United States. This has been achieved by using data from certain regions (samples) that has been collected in the past, or what is normally referred as secondary data.  This data has mostly looked at the number of post convict who finds themselves incarcerated once again, and after how long. Another important item that as been measured is the way community relate to a person with a criminal record together with the dignity that the community has accord him/her. The criminal justice system treatment of convicted person in the community is another thing that has come into sharp focus in assessing the exact extent of the problem in the United States and the four countries (Wales, England, South Africa, and Canada) that have been used to compare it with the US.     

Examples of inductive logic and deductive logic presented in the results of the research:

The use of both deductive and inductive reasoning is evident from the findings and the results that have been derived from them. A good example of deductive logic can be found in its conclusion. This article concludes that the severity of this problem of the collateral consequences in US is essentially rooted in the low dignity that is accorded to those with past criminal conviction and racial marginalization of certain groups (Pinard, 2010). After comparing the factors that were previously thought to be similar between the comparison countries and the United States it has been found to be almost similar, which is actually what has necessitated their inclusion in the first place in this research, only the levels of the racial marginalization and the dignity that is accorded the criminal convicts after incarceration has been found to differ.

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It is from that discovery that a conclusion has been drawn citing the differences in the levels of racial marginalization and the level of dignity that criminal convicts in these comparison countries accorded those with criminal records in respect to the united states as the main culprit of the sorry state of its collateral consequences.  In a nutshell the two differences that have been found to exist between the comparison countries in this research and the United States can assist us to conclude that its policies on collateral consequences are harsher and comparably more permanent than those countries. Or still, the United States it less forgiving on its citizens with criminal records than the likes of Canada, South Africa, Wales, and England.   

Description of the research design:

By exploring the root cause of the problem of collateral consequences in the United States and generating testable solution that can be applied in addressing these causes this research qualifies to be a qualitative research. The lack of the a full survey does not in itself disqualify it either, if anything it has been replaced by the case study that forms the basis of the research. 

The methodology, population, sampling methods, and return rate, used in the research:

The researcher sets out in advance the obstacles that might impede comparative analysis of this nature, and especially in criminal justice setting. One of these barriers has to do with the obstacles that might be placed in the researcher's way while seeking to obtain the required materials that are necessary for meaningful comparison (Pinard, 2010). Still, even if they were easily available, variation in laws, legal systems, customs, and political system will also make the required comparison difficult (Pinard, 2010). Another methodological problem that the researcher had to overcome has to do with the uniqueness in traditions, customs, laws and systems in countries that might have informed the formation of the laws and system in the first place (Pinard, 2010). The decision to use comparative analysis methodology has been informed by assumption that this kind of methodology has potential of divorcing this issue from the social, cultural, and political realities in which these issues (collateral consequences) developed.

The comparative approach also brings challenges in the context of the collateral consequences. These challenges includes the logistical difficulties that exist in determining the entire consequences in various countries; the effect of custom, localized needs, and cultures, in the way various communities view criminals within them; and the special economic and political needs of various jurisdictions that also require laws and regulation that are locality-specific.  

Findings of the study:

One of the important findings that the study makes is to discover the difference that exists between its criminal justice system and those of Canada, South Africa, Wales, and England. This is a breakthrough because it point to the changes that have been undertaken by the four countries in their criminal justice system and their correctional facilities that have as resulted separated them from those of the United States. For instance, the study has revealed that Canada has not only recognized its criminal justice system discrimination against the Aborigines but also instituted legislative measures that have gone a along way in bridging the racial differences in incarceration that has existed since time immemorial in its criminal justice system (Pinard, 2010). A good example of these legislative steps that have since been taken is the 2002 Supreme Court's decision that struck down its prisoner disenfranchisement law (Pinard, 2010). The second one is the South Africa's Constitutional Court's decision of the 2005 that also truck down the prisoner's disfranchisement law (Pinard, 2010).

The study also demonstrates the extents to which South Africa and Canada have gone towards preserving the dignity of the criminal convicts in their midst. In this regard I am referring to the recent extension of voting rights to incarcerated person in the two countries. It is noteworthy that the Canadian Supreme Court in particular, lamented that the prisoner disenfranchised law are inconsistent with the interest of dignity of all convicted person and those who have already served their criminal sentences (Pinard, 2010). Similarly, South Africa constitution has been amended in a way that places the concept of dignity on criminal convicts at its heart and that of post-apartheid jurisprudence (Pinard, 2010).               

Conclusions and recommendations:

In drawing the conclusion the author has indentified a number of factors that aggravate this problem of collateral consequences of the post-incarceration convicts. In this regard we are referring to factors like; the underlying offences that see a convict in prison in the first place, the general deterrence measures that have been taken, and retribution. A number of recommendations have been proposed that are expected address this problem. The first has to do with the implementation of measures that are expected to improve the dignity of persons with criminal record. In this regard the US ought to follow the path that has already been followed by the like of Canada and other comparison countries and also redefine its post-sentence penalties in order to improve the dignity of those who have a criminal record and to give them a tool that will enable them live a productive life.      

It should also design all collateral consequences to the corresponding or underlying offense. This will entail creating a new regime that only imposes consequences that are commensurate to the underlying criminal conduct, something that will go along way in minimizing the threat of further arm. Under this new regime, post-sentence penalties will be commensurate with the criminal conduct, instead of being imposed broadly, as has been the norm, on classifications of offender irrespective of their individual conduct. It will also be required to implement mechanisms that will be designed to eliminate the legal penalties that normally come with a criminal record. In this case jurisdiction in US ought to implement mechanisms which accord a person a real chance to move past his/her criminal record. This will be in line with majority organizations' proposal for the sealing and expungement provision that would facilitate integration and reentry by reducing collateral consequences. Otherwise, the expungement measures of the 1950s should be hailed and followed further by more complementary sealing and expungement provision.    

It should also analyze the racially inconsistent effect of collateral consequences. In this regard the US should borrow a lesson or two from Canada's 1996 steps that it implemented in its effort at easing the disproportion imprisonment of Aborigines. This will go along way in easing the disproportion imprisonment of its own American Latino, African American a number of other minority groups whose smooth reintegration and reentry to the community has always been bogged down by collateral consequences. Generally this article coverage is wide and exhaustive which is a positive quality as far as research is concern. Its richness in detail and finding also goes along way in enriching the scholarly literature on this topic of collateral consequence.

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