Preventing ‘Internal Exile’ When Joining Society Post-Incarceration
The Crime Report published an article about how many individuals still face consequences and barriers after being released from prison. People are naming these consequences and barriers ‘internal exile’, as they prevent many from successfully reintegrating back into society. Although some consequences come from stigmatized views of individuals who are released, most barriers are created by federal and state laws and regulations. Due to this, Congress is now exploring the option of a new form of relief, a Certificate of Rehabilitation. This certificate will “address the absence of any general federal restoration of rights regime, leaving aside the once-robust, now rare and erratic, presidential pardon power.” The proposed certificate falls under the RE-ENTER Act of 2019 stating that a judge can issue a certificate to alleviate the burdens of a criminal record, essentially giving individuals a second chance.
Although it may seem like this certificate was just introduced, it has been around for more than a half century and was created in New York. It is currently authorized in 12 states and is becoming a major national reform law. It is important that individuals do not continue to face the many barriers they do after serving their time and trying to get their lives back on track. The certificate would alleviate the burden of not being able to fully integrate back into society and help reduce pressure on tens of thousands of Americans. “In grand, formal language, the bill explains that it is the “sense of Congress” that “a Federal certificate of rehabilitation shall act as an expungement of any prior conviction of an eligible offender for the purposes of any employment, licensing, education, housing, or other determination;” and, that a certificate should constitute “evidence of due care” in employment, housing and a variety of other contexts.” However, a certificate does not erase or pardon past convictions, it still allows access to a record if known about.
There is hope that this certificate, expanded and added upon by Congress, will make a significant difference in the lives of many. It provides a rehabilitative approach to criminal justice and is removing more barriers for people integrating back into society.