Social Exclusion as a State-Level Predictor of Changes in Collateral Sanctions

Published date01 June 2018
Date01 June 2018
Social Exclusion as a State-
Level Predictor of Changes
in Collateral Sanctions
Mark Plassmeyer
and Shannon Sliva
Collateral sanctions are civil penalties or disabilities imposed upon people who are arrested,
charged, or convicted of a crime. Little research is available concerning state-level predictors of
these policies in the United States. Current research suggests that racial threat and political con-
servatism are associated with harsher sanctions or more restrictions in the realms of employment,
housing, social benefits, and other categories. Using state report cards from the Legal Action
Center, this study builds on existing knowl edge by testing the relationship between sta te-level
variables consistent with a social exclusion framework and collateral sanctions policies while also
testing the relationship between social exclusion and changes in these policies over time. Results
indicate that higher levels of social exclusion, measured by affordable housing scarcity, public benefit
usage, and state fiscal health, may play a role in the adoption of state collateral sanction policies over
time. In contrast to previous research, results offer mixed evidence regarding the relationship
between the racial makeup of the state and the adoption of collateral sanctions policies. Policy
implications are discussed.
smart decarceration, collateral sanctions, social exclusion, prisoner reentry, criminal justice policy
Collateral sanctions are civil penalties or disabilities imposed upon people who are arrested,
charged, or convicted of a crime (American Bar Association, 201 7; Boire, 2007; Legal Action
Center [LAC], 2009, 2004; Radice, 2012). Articulated in civil rather than criminal code, and
administered by federal, state, and local agencies outside of the criminal justice system, collateral
sanctions are underaccounted for in discussions about criminal justice policy-making (Chin, 2002;
Pinard, 2006). However, these civil sanctions impact some of the most crucial arenas for living a
healthy and independent life. There is evidence that collateral sanctions including restrictions on
accessing housing, employment, education, and driver’s licenses are correlated with increased
recidivism among formerly incarcerated individuals and others with arrests, charges, and convic-
tions on their records (Boire, 2007; Bushway & Sweeten, 2007; Evans & Porter, 2014; Henry &
University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA
Corresponding Author:
Mark Plassmeyer, University of Denver, 2148 South High Street, Denver, CO 80208, USA.
Criminal Justice Review
2018, Vol. 43(2) 236-251
ª2017 Georgia State University
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016817721292
Jacobs, 2007; LAC, 2009, 2004; Radice, 2012; Roman & Travis, 2004; Whittle, 2016). Furthermore,
the literature indicates th at many of the resources restri cted by collateral sanction s are in fact
protective factors predictive of reduced recidivism (Bruce, Crowley, Jeffcote, & Coulston, 2014;
Clifasefi, Malone, & Collins, 2013; Ellison, Fox, Gains, & Pollock, 2013; Nally, Lockwood, Ho, &
Knutson, 2014; Somers, Rezansoff, Moniruzzaman, Palepu, & Patterson, 2013; Uggen, 2000).
It is difficult to estimate the number of people impacted by collateral sanctions, yet it is known
that around 700,000 U.S. citizens return from prison each year and nearly 24 million others cycle
through local jails (Carson, 2015; Pettus-Davis, 2012). This indicates that a large portion of the
U.S. population is impacted by a variety of collateral sanctions each year and that the number of
people facing these sanctions continues to grow. In the meantime, recidivism among the formerly
incarcerated is unprecedented. A Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study found that 77%of
prisoners exiting state prisons in 30 states during 2005 had been reincarcerated within 5 years
of their release. Nearly 43%had recidivated in the first year after release, 60%by the end of the
second year, and 68%by the end of the third year (Durose, Cooper, & Snyder, 2014). While the
literature suggests that collateral sanctions contribute directly and indirectly—via reduced access
to protective factors—to rearrest, it is not clear to what extent such sanctions are driving high
national recidivism rates.
Likewise, we know little about what motivates the adoption and maintenance of collateral sanc-
tion policies in the face of research suggesting that they are counteractive as a form of deterrence.
Using report cards from the LAC, Whittle and Parker (201 4) found that indicators of political
conservatism, religiosity, and racial threat are predictive of more restrictive collateral sanctions at
the state level; however, little other research contributes meaningfully to understanding the deter-
minants of state-level decisions about collateral sanctions. This study advances prior research by
exploring new variables related to a social exclusion framework and by attending to changes in LAC
collateral sanctions scores over time.
Background and Prior Research
The application of collateral sanctions following conviction of a criminal offense dates to ancient
Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, and subsequently, the American colonies (Grady, 2012). While
colonial sanctions included forfeiture of property and the right to vote, the advent of new public
rights and services such as drivers’ licenses, public assistance, and criminal record keeping created
new applications for collateral sanctions. Olivares, Burton, and Cullen (1996) provide evidence of
increased use of collateral sanctions by the states between 1986 and 1996, pointing to the influence
of tough-on-crime policies emphasizing deterrence and incapacitation during this time. In addition,
the federal adoption of Megan’s Law in 1994 prompted a wave of sex offender registration laws,
another type of collateral sanction (Olivares, Burton, & Cullen, 1996).
By 2003, collateral consequences were more broad and varied than at any prior point in U.S.
history, and due to rising incarceration rates, these consequences affected a larger number of people
than ever before (Petersilia, 2003). Report cards prepared by the LAC (2004, 2009), a nonprofit law
firm dedicated to fighting discrimination against persons with criminal histories, provide scores for
each state indicating the prevalence of collateral sanctions across multiple arenas, including adop-
tion rights, voting rights, access to criminal records, student loans, drivers’ licensing, employment,
public housing, and public assistanc e. LAC report cards from 2004 and 2009 show tha t while
individual states have enacted changes to the number and type of collateral sanctions affecting
people with criminal histories, on average, state-level collateral sanctions have not significantly
changed since 2004. Since 2009, consistently high incarceration rates and a growing number of
releases from prisons and jails have heightened the importance of explorations into the determinants
and impacts of collateral sanctions for the previously incarcerated.
Plassmeyer and Sliva 237

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