Each year, roughly 650,000 people are released from American prisons and 9 million cycle through the local jails. Despite paying their debt to society, a criminal record brings with it many collateral consequences beyond the sentence already served that creates many barriers for individuals trying to rebuild their lives. In many places, people with criminal convictions face restrictions to accessing public housing, employment, the ballot, food assistance programs, and other public benefits which can have detrimental consequences like homelessness and food insecurity.
- The stigma of a criminal record itself can make the task of finding stable employment incredibly challenging. Studies show that a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent for men in general, and 60 percent for African-American men. In response, the Reform Movement has supported efforts to “ban the box” referring to the removal of "boxes" on job applications that force returning citizens to expose their criminal histories to hiring teams before being considered for a position.
- In the United States, millions of citizens are currently disenfranchised (denied the right to vote) as a result of a felony conviction. Of those individuals, 75 percent are currently out of prison and living under probation or parole supervision or in states where voting rights are not restored after they have completed their sentence.
- The Central Conference of American Rabbis has expressed support for the rights of returning citizens to vote and the Reform Movement has long advocated against discriminatory voting laws. During the 2018 Midterm Elections, the Reform Movement actively supported the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s campaign to restore the right to vote for the 1.6 million Floridians who had been disenfranchised. Amendment 4, the proposed Florida Voting Restoration Amendment ballot initiative that would allow people who had already paid their debt to society to get their voting rights restored, passed.
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