Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Are “Certificates of Rehabilitation” the Solution to Prisoner Reentry?

with 2 comments

Should more states join the seven that offer ex-prisoners the opportunity to earn “certificates of rehabilitation”? In a new paper, NYU law professor Joy Radice draws lessons from the 50-year history of these certificates in New York, the first state to introduce a program of this type. Here’s the abstract:

After years of swelling prison populations, the reentry into society of people with criminal convictions has become a central criminal justice issue. Scholars, advocates, judges, and lawmakers have repeatedly emphasized that, even after prison, punishment continues from severe civil penalties that are imposed by federal and state statutes on anyone with a conviction. To alleviate the impact of these punishments, they have increasingly endorsed state legislation that creates certificates of rehabilitation. Seven states offer these postconviction certificates, and six others proposed such legislation in 2011. Many look to New York’s statute as the best model because it is the oldest and most robust. Yet no article has examined New York’s experience with Certificates of Rehabilitation.

This Article draws lessons from the fifty-year history of New York’s Certificates of Rehabilitation to describe features of an ideal administrative mechanism that removes statutory barriers to reentry. I argue that a model Certificate of Rehabilitation statute will have a strong enforcement mechanism and clear directives for administering authorities. Successful implementation also requires committed administrative leadership and an effective means for making certificates accessible to the population they serve. Certificates of Rehabilitation do not erase a person’s criminal history, but they offer legal and social recognition that after a criminal conviction, a person deserves a second chance.

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Written by sara

July 14, 2011 at 11:15 am

2 Responses

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  1. As community members, we have a certain expectation that prisoners will learn from their mistakes and make an attempt toward better life choices upon release. Reentry programs are an attempt to teach, guide, and help develop an awareness for healthy values, and positive thoughts and behaviors so that exprisoners released into community will reach personal happiness and individual success. Of course, we as concerned community members also need to do our part and except those exprisoners returning as good citizens.

    This is where Certificates of Rehabilitation are very powerful. Such a certificate could have the potential of raising a person out of intergenerational poverty, and into a self-sustaining, working class career. Without such a powerful social tool, and without community support, do we really expect exprisoners who come from intergenerational poverty to truly succeed within today’s job market?

    Project Regeneration

    July 25, 2011 at 9:04 pm

  2. My name is Brenda Brazell and i am seeking certificate of rehabilitation i have numerous misdemeanors and want to be a social worker. I have done a lot of work toward this goal. Graduated from a therapeutic community was my first step work really hard to get my GED i went on to training program for Certified Alcohol Substance Abuse Counselor in training(CASAC-T) from there i started working and achieved A.A.S Human services i am currently enrolled as full time student at Lehman College major is sociology . In hope to enter MSW program in 2113,
    can you provide the steps in qualifying and obtaining a certificate of Rehabilitation .

    Thank you
    Brenda Brazell

    Brenda Brazell

    November 4, 2011 at 11:08 am


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