“Collateral Consequences” refer to sanctions unrelated to the criminal sentence suffered by individuals convicted of drug possession. Federal law bans or restricts the provision of food stamps, TANF grants, and public housing for those who have served time for drug possession. All individuals with records face barriers to employment, promotion, or education, including the loss of educational grants and professional licenses. Many are denied the right to vote and serve on a jury.
These sanctions often exceed the length of the drug sentence and can be greater than the penalties given to persons convicted of murder, rape, or robbery.
One important way states can eliminate these collateral consequences is by changing drug laws. For example, an individual convicted in Illinois of possessing 2.5 ounces of marijuana currently suffers all the consequences listed above. This would change with the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana.
Clergy for a New Drug Policy is initially organizing for changes in marijuana laws in eight states, including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Illinois.
Collateral Consequences In the News
Virginia Governor Signs Order Restoring Voting Rights for Felons
Fortune – April 23, 2016
The Drug War on Women
Project Syndicate – March 7, 2016
Maryland Restores Voting Rights to 40,000 Felons
Mother Jones – February 9, 2016
John Oliver Ridicules America’s Plan for Criminal Re-entry
Drug Policy Alliance – November 11, 2015
How to Get Around a Criminal Record
The New York Times – October 19, 2015
Blog Posts on Collateral Consequences
When Poverty Becomes a CrimeNovember 11, 2020
Changing Minds in Mississippi: How a Conservative Christian Seeks to End the Drug WarDecember 5, 2019
Michelle Alexander Urges “Victories for All of Us”November 3, 2017
The War on Drugs Kills Women, Too: A Reflection on Andrea Ritchie’s “Invisible No More”October 9, 2017