The Scarlet "CD": Nature and Impact of Invisible Collateral Disabilities Stigma on Individuals, Families, Society and Social Control in a "Free" Democratic Society

H. James McGaha, Cleveland Capital University

In our system of enlightened penology persons convicted of crimes in America, both misdemeanors and felonies, are subjected to a variety of penalties beyond the sentence imposed by the Court. These "Collateral Disabilities," are a product of our highly punitive crime control policies. Triggered by convictions in general and sometimes exacerbated by the specific type of offense, i.e., sexual abuse, "Collateral Disabilities" are usually invisible to the larger society. For affected persons these invisible non-penalties significantly and harshly impact places of residence, employment, eligibility for government benefits and programs, voting, and security clearances as well as access to and participation in the professions. These disabilities are potentially an extra "life sentence" creating an outcast status. In almost all cases individuals receive little or no information about procedures by which individuals may challenge these restrictions, and secure their full civil rehabilitation. Public sector assistance to individuals in constructively overcoming these measurers is extremely limited.

The nature, scope, and prevlance of Collateral Disabilities is examined. Individual, and society impact of these restrictions is scrutinized, including ethical issues, criminal deviance, and social institutions such as family. The nature and potential benefits of policy shifts to address this problem are explored.

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Updated 05/20/2006