Out Of Prison But Still Trapped: Examining The ‘Afterlife’ Of Incarceration

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NPR on 3/24/2021 by Terry Gross

For people serving time in jail or prison, it may seem like punishment ends on the day of release. But in fact, thousands of restrictions dictate the terms of life after incarceration, too.

University of Chicago professor Reuben Jonathan Miller estimates that there are 45,000 “laws, policies and administrative sanctions” in the U.S. that target people with criminal records. Some ban the formerly incarcerated from serving on juries. Others prevent people with records from gaining employment.

“For example, in the state of Illinois, it took a legislative act to allow people with criminal records who were trained as barbers in U.S. jails and prisons to get their cosmetology license — and that law didn’t change until 2016,” he says.

Miller says the most insidious restrictions are those that prevent people with records from accessing homes — or that allow landlords to reject applications based on the fact that people have criminal records. He notes that the formerly incarcerated are seven times more likely to be homeless than members of the general population.