Under the leadership of Atlanta celebrity defense attorney Drew Findling, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers released a series of recommendations Tuesday to mitigate the lasting negative effects of incarceration.
“The United States not only imprisons people at far higher rates than any other democracy, but it also leads the world in imposing a vast network of life-altering consequences on the millions of individuals who pass through the nation’s criminal justice system each year,” Findling said in the foreword to a report posted on the NACDL website. “The nation’s criminal defense bar is determined to reverse these policies.”
The report is the product of research and conversations that began in Atlanta last August. Findling started his term as ACDL president then by hosting a national conference at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis titled “Shattering the Shackles of Collateral Consequences: Exploring Moral Principles and Economic Innovations to Restore Rights and Opportunity.” Defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges gathered to examine the effect of penalties and disabilities following a criminal conviction. The conference also highlighted the groundbreaking work to help people return to a productive path.
Brennan Wingerter, founder and managing attorney at East Tennessee Appellate Litigation in Knoxville, Tennessee, wrote the group’s report. The recommendations include:
• Building up resources in communities of color • Funding better education systems • Protecting and asserting the right to vote • Increasing awareness of mental health issues • Reforming law enforcement education to foster improved community relations • Building coalitions at the local, state and national levels • Rehabilitating and educating people while they are incarcerated • Making prisons and prosecutions more transparent • “Banning the box” on employment applications that asks about prior criminal records • Providing more employment opportunities for people getting out of prison • Sharing success stories and changing the narrative about people who have been incarcerated
The executive summary said the report is “intended to facilitate more discussion and to inspire further action on these issues so that anyone—not just the conference attendees and participants—can work to shatter the shackles of collateral consequences.”