Being unfamiliar with your idiot cousin and his case(s), I can’t say whether you are telling the truth or not. Note, however, that despite that, I am not asking you for any mollyfocking proof–even though by your expressed standards, I would have expected you to provide pdfs of every one of his court documents, for the sake of verisimilitude.
In the three states with which I am familiar with the procedure, an application for a public defender MUST be accompanied by a listing of all the defendant’s assets and income. The defendant is expected (forced) to pay for his representation to whatever extent he can. It is quite possible that disability payments are exempt from this in whatever jurisdiction your cousin inhabits.
In any case, without absolute proof that this ever happened, we should probably assume that you made it all up just to prove a point, since nothing anyone ever says is true unless they back it up with hard, solid evidence.
This is at odds with what a number of my friends who are former felons have told me, they all have bank accounts, credit cards, a couple have mortgages, and one of them didn’t have a problem getting financing to purchase a helicopter.
On the other hand, when I met them they were all about 20 years post-release with a history of good behavior out in society. That just might have an effect on their ability to get jobs/financing/internet access/library cards/whatever.
While there are certainly some draconian laws and regulations out there it’s not quite as bleak as you paint it.
And BTW that was a pretty good return kick in the virtual nuts
Remember to keep it somewhat civil and clean and obey the forum rules so you don’t get in trouble with the mods.
While I don’t think things are quit as bad you portray them (though I could be wrong), I do think you have a point in that convicted felons can have a damn hard time once out and that might not be the best way to go for society or the hopefully former felon.
This surprised me. I Googled and the claim appears to be false.
Google did inform me that a felon might have trouble getting a visa to another country. Can I hijack for a follow-up question? How does the other country know? Does the passport number link to an internationally-accessible database showing felon status?
Is your brother’s bank the only bank that issues CCs? I’m sorry, but the examples of felons who have credit cards would seem to indicate that this isn’t the whole truth. CCs care about their ability to make money from your account; there are multiple factors that go into that.
You’re basing your whole argument on a few anecdotes, not data.
Yeah, probably not QUITE that bleak. But to use the example of your felonious friends, I think that having been able to operate in relative obscurity 20 years ago might have made it quite a bit easier then than now to rebuild their lives. In 1992, employers/landlords couldn’t just punch your SSN into a computer terminal and be told who you’d kissed, and where, since when you were an embryo.
My essential point is and has been that it’s considerably harder to rejoin society after serving a prison sentence than it used to be, and therefore prosecutors and judges should be imposing lesser, not greater prison terms for a given offense. In 1980, you could serve two years and emerge relatively unscathed. Today, you are doomed to be a seventh-class citizen forever.
I notice no one has challenged the OP on the passport question. Is this just because of the often-quoted (at least over here in Europe) and shocking statistic that most Americans don’t have passports so it is a minor claim compared to his other ones, or is it because felons really cannot get passports in America? And if the latter… WTF?!
Is there an American equivilant to the Rehabilitation of Offenders act in the UK whereby for all but really serious offences (basically murder or rape - the actual threshold is two and a half years of imprisonment; I’m aware you can get that in Texas for crossing the road while being black but over here you really have to have done quite a lot to get such a big sentence) after a few years your sentence is “spent” and you can legally claim when asked to have had no conviction?
I think if the OP would concede for the purposes of this thread that a convicted felon can get get a bank account, a credit card, or a library card, his point still stands.
As others have mentioned, maybe he can work for dismal wages somewhere, but his life is still pretty screwed as most doors will close for him once the felony conviction is discovered in the inevitable background check. A hundred years ago, you could at least move away from home and start a new life.
Speaking of Jack McCoy on L&O, I’m not sure if that even shows how much an ARREST can screw up your life (especially for murder). A prospective employer sees an arrest for murder but the charges were dismissed and he wants to stay the hell away from you. On L&O, if you mess with Jack McCoy, he has you charged with murder until you decide to cooperate and he lets you go.
We don’t have many passports because until recently, with the Homeland Stupidity act and other assorted paranoias, we didn’t need one to visit Canada or Mexico, the only two nations contiguous to the US (ignoring Russia and the Aleutians, of course). Other countries are pretty hard to visit casually, so relatively few people ever felt the need. And we get all the cultural stimulation we need from hockey and burritos anyway.
Anyway, the truth is that a convicted felon can get a passport if he is not under parole or probation–and most released felons are. But if that supervision period expires, he can indeed get a passport. However, he may not be admitted to any country he wants to travel to–for instance, Canada will not admit anyone with a felony arrest record, regardless of conviction, or any misdemeanor conviction other than traffic offenses. (Trust me, I speak from experience on this one.)
Many individual states have programs where criminal records may be “expunged,” which means that the person who does so may legally answer “no” on an employment, etc. application when asked if he has a criminal record. The record(s) will also be sealed and only accessible to law enforcement, courts, credit agencies, mothers-in-law, anyone who pays a search service $15, or anyone who’s curious. The laws vary from state to state. In general, many types of offenses are prohibited from expungement, and a certain amount of time (2-7 years) must elapse from the date of the conviction.
This will all become moot, of course, when our criminal histories are permanently encoded on our implanted microchips.
I get your point, Greenslime: The days of a “fresh start” seem to be over. Perhaps it is true that there are no “second acts” in American lives. It does tend to create a permanent underclass. Judges know that. So do prosecutors.
It probably differs by state, Texas is quite harsh when it comes to what indigent means. They can also decide to take civil action against you to recover the cost, even if you qualified. Texas doesn’t like poor people.
Rather than nitpicking the details, or finding exceptions, it might be interesting to discuss greenslime1951’s main point, which is that, on the whole (ignoring examples such as wealthy people or people who have family or friends who will employ them), a felony conviction does make it considerably more difficult to make a living. (By “make a living” I mean earning a wage that one can actually live on.) Does anyone seriously dispute that?
What, if anything, can or should a society do about this?
Sure, you could argue that maybe they’ve brought it on themselves, but even looking at it that way, is it good for society to have a class of people who’ve shown criminal behavior in the past and who now have limited alternatives?
No a felony conviction won’t stop you from getting a US passport, alone anyway.
Now as for being a tourist, most countries on Earth allow US citizens to get a tourist visa on arrival BUT not for convicted felons they have to apply at an embassy for a visa before traveling. Some countries like Canada and Britain? have agreements with the US to share data on criminal convictions through the NCIC. So customs there could see it and decide to turn you away.
Other countries…you can take your chances but if customs finds out somehow they will deport you.
Thank you for articulating my essential point in a better fashion than I actually did.
I first started thinking about this in terms of sex offenders who had served their prescribed terms and were now being hounded out of the towns in which they had attempted to resettle. One famous example was a man who joined a church, until they found out about his past. They not only had him thrown out of the church, but out of the town as well. While (former?) sex offenders may pose a unique danger to society, I don’t think that former murderers, armed robbers, etc. pose that much less of a threat. What are we supposed to do, create a former-offender zone like they did for prisoners released from the Gulag?
I think the prospect of “paid your debt to society” has become a mockery. To return to my McCoy analogy, I think that a realistic court sentence would state, “Eight years in a facility to be chosen by the State and a lifetime as an impoverished pariah.” Yes, the criminal has brought all this on himself (especially since everyone who is convicted of a crime is guilty:rolleyes:), but does it serve the body politic to treat offenders this way?
“Nearly forcing”, so to speak, formerly convicted criminals to live a life of poverty, become criminals, or both, really isn’t in the interest of society (nevermind the fairness or lack there of to the actual former felon) IMO. Now how true that statement is or isn’t should be part of the debate here.
And then there is this whole “felon” label for that matter. I get the impression that you have two criminal classes label wise. Misdomeanor parking/driving violations and felonies.
The thing is, while I can articulate the problem, I find it difficult to think of a fair solution.
You can give them job training (and I think that’s already done), but you can’t force employers to hire them.
It also doesn’t seem right to support them financially for the rest of their lives. That just isn’t fair to law abiding people who have to work for a living. It’s also an invitation for people to look for the felony with the shortest sentence, commit it, serve the time, and then live off the state from then on.
Maybe they could get hiring preference for government jobs?
When it turns out the person killed on the street actually was killed by a random mugger trying to steal their wallet, that’s not interesting television. TV legal dramas always have twists, defendants who had political motives and have lots of resources to hire high-powered lawyers, etc. Yes, barriers are set up in the real world that make it difficult for a poor, minority, lifelong criminal to reintegrate into society after a prison sentence, but that type of person is NEVER the defendant in fiction because there’s no story there.