Shadow of a felony conviction: collateral consequences

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Reported by: Erik Avanier
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Updated: 6/04/2013 7:24 pm
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - According to a detailed report from the Uniform Law Commission, People convicted of a crime have no hope of ever being able to fully discharge their debt to society.

The report also says that in almost every U.S. jurisdiction, offenders seeking to put their criminal past behind them are frustrated by a legal system that is complex, unclear and entirely inadequate to the task; meaning ex-felons who have payed their debt to society have fallen victim to collateral consequences as a result of their conviction. Former prosecutor turned defense attorney Jerry Summers said collateral consequences are greatly affecting ex-felons who are trying to move on with their lives.

"You're talking about employment. You're talking about all kinds of government  programs that eliminate you from being considered to be include," Summers said.

Summers said more defense attorneys will start presenting collateral consequences to the court when their clients are offered plea deals as a way to show damages their clients may face even after incarceration.

"It's not just when you give somebody probation or if you give them workhouse sentencing or make them go off to the penitentiary; that's not the end of it. There's going to be other consequences," he said.

WDEF asked Summers how he felt about the United States court system when it comes to collateral consequences.

"We've got the best justice system in the world. It doesn't always work but for certain segments of society it's a problem," said the attorney.

Studies have shown African Americans are the biggest casualties of collateral consequences.

According to the Uniform Law Commission, the negative effects of a criminal conviction is substantially larger for blacks than whites.

WDEF asked former convicted felon turned motivational speaker, Charmane Goins why collateral consequences effects African Americans a lot harder than Caucasians.

"Because we don't have that support. We don't have that knowledge. We don't have people willing to give us a chance. It sticks out a little bit more than anyone else," said Goins.

"We like to say that as Americans, you pay your debt to society and we'll give you another chance however in the present atmosphere, I think that's not as true as it use to be," said attorney Jerry Summers.

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