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The adverse consequences of a criminal record can be far-reaching. Access to the safety net is affected by criminal records, with 12 states (shown in green) placing strict restrictions on access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for people with felony convictions. All the states highlighted in green have TANF bans, and seven of those states also have bans on SNAP for people with felony convictions. Other states that are not indicated on the map have partial SNAP and TANF bans. For example, some of these states might make benefits available only after the applicant submits to drug testing or completes a drug treatment program (The Sentencing Project 2015). In still other states the partial ban is in place for the first six months after incarceration and is then lifted.

Criminal records have a number of other so-called collateral consequences, including loss of voting rights and legal permission to work. As outlined in purple, residents with felony convictions are banned from voting in nine states. Twenty states and the District of Columbia place little or no restriction on the ability of occupational licensing boards to categorically reject applicants with conviction histories (Rodriguez and Avery 2016). Many other states place only minimal restrictions on the ability of occupational licensing boards to reject applicants even when an applicant’s conviction is not directly related to work in the occupation. Given that occupational licensure now encompasses roughly one quarter of all workers, many of whom are low skilled workers (BLS 2016), licensure impediments for workers with criminal records are a particularly important barrier to employment.

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