McCoy offers the defendant a gift: six years

Watch enough “Law and Order” and you’ll inevitably see McCoy offering the trembling (or defiant) wretch something less than a life (or death) sentence, and the accused is usually portrayed as a fool for refusing.

Yet, in this day of the internet and no privacy, isn’t ANY felony conviction a virtual death sentence? Consider: assuming you survive the experience of being in prison (not guaranteed by any means), how can you survive when you get let out? You can’t get a job. You can’t find a place to live. You can’t get a bank account or a credit card (or even a library card, in some places). You have no computer, no wireless access, no phone. How can you survive, except illegally?

“Rehabilitation” has always been a sad joke, but it’s a joke now more than ever. It’s totally impossible to get a “fresh start”; hell, you can’t even get a passport and move away from the country that doesn’t want your criminal ass any more. So I’m wondering: just what do released felons do these days, when any clown can look up everything about them on the internet? How do they survive?

And also: why don’t courts and prosecutors recognize/acknowledge the total destruction of a person’s life that ANY felony conviction brings? I would think life in prison (where you are at least fed, sort of, and housed, sort of) would be preferable to eventually dying, broke, on the street.

I’ve pondered that many times and concluded that our system of order by fear and punishment system is fundamentally flawed - it can never work and just produces oppression and a privileged class.

This paragraph contains many errors. Would you have a citation for any of it? Things are more difficult, but certainly not impossible.

Concur. There are people all over who are convicted felons who are having no problem at all making a living. Martha Stewart, for one.

Martha Stewart came out of prison far more ahead in the game than your average convict does, though.

That’s sort of like asking someone to logically prove the nonexistence of something they have asserted as such. Okay, if you like, I’ll modify my “error”–it is very, very, very, very, very, very, very difficult for a convicted felon to find a job, a place to live, or a means of existence.

I concede that it is not impossible. Nor is it impossible for me to win the lottery while having sex with supermodels.

Your (implied) attitude contributes to the problem. Naah, it’s not all that difficult for them to survive, and what the hell, they’re all scum anyway. Screw 'em. The fatal flaw with this attitude is that if society decides to impose non-life sentences, then it logically–and morally–must deal with the problem of stripping someone of personhood, yet releasing them back into society. If presumably, you don’t want that person to commit more criminal acts, what do you do? Do you expect him to not want to eat and live indoors, and not, at some point, to do whatever is necessary to live?

Nazi Germany and China, to name two societies, dealt with this problem rather effectively but I don’t think we want to go there just yet.

Good God, what a silly comparison. OBVIOUSLY, a convict who enters prison with massive wealth–acquired legally–will still have a major portion of that wealth–including assets such as a house or houses–upon release.

However, I venture to say that most convicted felons enter prison broke, especially after paying their attorneys.

Greenslime, you seem new here - but on this board, when someone makes a factual claim, he or she is asked to back that up with evidence. You claim, among different things, that it is impossible for convicted felons to get a credit card. Do you have a cite for that? Or that they can’t find a place to live? Note that asking you for a cite for such an assertion is not like asking you to prove the non-existence of anything at all, those things are not logically equivalent. Note also that I’m not too hung up on whether it is impossible - if it is considerably more difficult for convicted felons to do those things I’d already consider that to be evidence backing up your claims to some extent.

Which has what to do with your assertion that a convicted felon “can’t get a job… can’t find a place to live… can’t get a bank account or a credit card (or even a library card, in some places)… ha[s] no computer, no wireless access, no phone.”

You make a blanket statement like that, you’re obliged to acknowledge that one contrary example, however silly, disproves it.

Most of them probably get Public Defenders and don’t have to pay their attorneys but they probably don’t have a lot of cash on hand either.

I know a few people who served prison sentences for felonies and are out and working.

One guy is in he mid-20’s. He is working at a Subway shop and previous to that worked at Burger King.

One worked for a family business for a while (not his family but he was friends with the family) and eventually built up the experience to go on his own. Last I heard he was managing a bunch of vacation rentals.

One got into a program where he was a fire fighter for wild fires. He is presently doing that while still a prisoner. Many of them can keep that or a similar job as a civilian.

Actually the death rate in prison is sometimes actually lower that the death rate in the general population for the same groups.

There are all kinds of jobs that a felon can get that don’t require that they fill out an application and list the fact that they were in prison.

So while they can’t get a job in a bank, or at most large companies, and while it may be hard for them to get a good job, there are certainly jobs such as a door to door salesman or working on landscaping jobs, that I can imagine a convicted felon can get that would earn them enough money to get by…

BTW, most city libraries offer at least limited free access to the Internet for public use.

Does your internet provider ask about your criminal past?

(I realize that some people on parole are forbidden to have internet access, but that’s not to say they couldn’t easily get it if they want to take the risk of getting caught)

Bank account or credit card applications don’t ask about felony convictions either…

You can’t sign up with an internet provider without having a method of payment. Bank account and credit card applications don’t ask about felony convictions, but the applications will be swiftly denied if one exists. My brother works as a new accounts supervisor in a bank, and this is what he has told me.

Just to clear up a widespread misconception: public defenders are only “free” if the defendant is truly indigent. And if he has $50 to his name, the judge will order that $50 paid to the public defender. So even a relatively simple criminal case will bleed the typical defendant dry–even with a public defender assigned to his case.

No, I expect that people with a sense of proportion will realize that there are exceptions that don’t disprove the rule, that my not having said “can almost never get a job,” etc. doesn’t mean that I was ignorant of that, or most importantly, that I am obligated to respond to nit-picking.

Yes, I would be inaccurate in saying, “Being shot thirty-seven times is fatal,” in that there are undoubtedly SOME people who have been shot that many times or more who have, in fact, survived. But if I said that in an internet post and someone piped up with, “WHAT ABOUT DILBERT FARNSWORTHY OF KIDNEYSTONE PASS, MONTANA, WHO WAS SHOT 112 TIMES BY HIS WIFE BUT SURVIVED??? LOL IMHO OMG!!!” I would not feel that I was under any obligation to acknowledge that person.

This is just not true.

I have an idiot cousin who has been arrested on a few different minor crimes, including a DUI.

He was assigned a public defender and didn’t have to pay a cent for his representation, despite getting a $1500 monthly check from the VA for a “disability” (which I am convinced he scammed to qualify for, although with a back injury I guess I can’t be sure) so before you jump in and start laying down blanket statements about public defenders and no felons ever getting credit cards, you need to provide some mollyfocking proof.

Welcome to the Straight Dope, by the way. I wish you a long and prosperous tenure here.

If you’ve ever applied for a job, looked for an apartment, or for that matter tried to open a bank account or applied for credit in the last ten years or so, you would know how true this is.

Most of the conservatives who advocate nice long prison sentences are people who haven’t had to deal with “starting from scratch” at any time in their lives, or at least haven’t had to do so for four or five decades. The process is brutal. I don’t think I need, nor should I, to point to a specific instance of where someone was denied a job or a place to live because of a prior felony conviction. Every job/housing application contains such questions—and no one will ever give (to a third party) that as the reason the applicant was turned down.