By Forrest Lee Jones
Journalism Guild Writer
A U.S. district judge issued a “certificate of rehabilitation” to a woman he had sentenced over a decade ago, according to a report by the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.
In his final tenure on the bench, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson offered a ruling that set a new precedent for federal courts in modifying consequential effects of a criminal record that doesn’t completely erase it, says the report.
Gleeson’s opinion could inform how future sentencing courts can influence a potential employer to give a second chance to a person with a criminal record, according to the report.
Gleeson drew from certificate models created by other states, including the one chosen by Illinois through the actions of then State Senator Barack Obama, says the report.
“The federal system has much to gain from adopting a certification system similar to those in certain states,” said Gleeson.
According to the case, Jane Doe ran into trouble gaining employment given her criminal record. Gleeson acknowledged that most prospective employers do not have the “time or resources to gain a comprehensive understanding of who Doe is” and then determine whether her conviction should play a role in her hiring.
But in the case, Gleeson said he did the work for the prospective employers.
“I’ve reviewed each page of Doe’s trial transcript,” Gleeson said in his opinion. “Any legitimate impact that her fraudulent actions more than 15 years ago may have had on her suitability for employment no longer exists. Jane Doe is rehabilitated.”
Expunging a criminal record is a “forgiveness” model. In other words, while the court acknowledges the conviction and leaves the person’s criminal record intact, it uses a certificate of rehabilitation or pardon as a symbolic expression of society’s forgiveness of the underlying offense conduct.
“The forgiveness model … is gaining favor in the reentry community for both functional and philosophical reasons…,” Gleeson said. “I believe a certificate of rehabilitation can significantly alleviate the collateral effects of a criminal record by emitting a powerful signal that the same system that found a person deserving of punishment has now found that individual fit to fully rejoin the community.”
By Forrest Lee Jones