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When Does the Punishment End? (Part One)

W. Scott Cole

Posted on September 16, 2018 11:44

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Ideally, when a person is convicted of a crime, he is sentenced. He completes the punishment determined appropriate by the judge and is free to get his life back together. He has paid his debt to society and has a second chance. The ideal seldom, if ever, happens. More often than not, the punishment continues for the felon and, many times, his family, for the rest of their lives.

There are repercussions to committing a crime that most people do not know about. The punishment can even extend to the person’s family, making them pay a penalty for no reason than that they are the family of the convicted person.

Every state has a victim compensation fund, which the victims of crime can access to help soften the financial blow of a crime against them. Seven states (Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, North Carolina, and Rhode Island) prohibit that aid to anyone that has a criminal conviction in their past.

In Arkansas and Florida, that prohibition is lifelong.  It lasts from three to 10 years after the sentence has been discharged in the other states, and in Ohio, it extends to some misdemeanors and does not even require a conviction. The ban applies if a person is arrested for a crime even if no charges were ever filed.

In Florida, the state denied 1,069 people financial aid from the victim compensation fund for because of a criminal past in the last two years. A glaring example of the injustice of that is the case of Anthony Campbell, a football coach at a university in Alabama, whose father was murdered in Sarasota, Florida.

On the advice of police, he applied for aid from the victim compensation fund to help pay funeral expenses. He was denied because his father, who was lauded by the Sarasota City Commission as a “prominent citizen” a month after his death, had been convicted of an attempted break-in 30 years before, even though he had lived crime free since.

In Ohio, Andre Winston was fatally stabbed in 2015, trying to protect a woman in an apartment complex. His family was denied assistance with funeral expenses because he was convicted of possession of heroin in 2008, even though he had not committed another crime since.

Louisiana says that their victim compensation fund was set up to assist truly innocent victims of crime, with “innocent” meaning not at just that moment, but stretching back through the past of the victim. One reason the state gives for this policy is that when you get arrested, you lose certain rights. Obviously, in Louisiana, you never get those rights back, which means they are not rights, they are privileges.

Attempts have been made in recent years in Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri to modify these policies, but most are unsuccessful.

Continued punishment after a sentence has been completed is detrimental to all of society, not just the victim with a criminal history and their families, who are punished even if they have never been convicted of a crime.

This is just one area in which punishment for a criminal conviction continues after a person has supposedly repaid his debt to society. We will examine a few other areas next week.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on September 16, 2018 11:44

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Source: KSDK

The Illinois House has approved a package of criminal-justice reforms to aid crime victims and reduce prison populations.

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