Now that we are back in the community, have our rights been fully restored or are they but limited? May we vote? May we work? May we work anywhere? Can people discriminate against us in housing and/or employment because of our criminal history? These are things we should understand and be prepared for…Read more →
Basic needs. From the start, you have the right to apply for benefits–public assistance, including emergency assistance and/or shelter, SNAP, Medicaid, child care assistance, etc.—and the right to a hearing if an application is not processed promptly or denied. Applicants and recipients of these benefits also have the right to accommodation for disability, such as home visits, or exemptions from work requirements. Those whose ability to speak and understand English is limited have a right to interpretation and translation of documents. Information on public assistance is found under Basics on this page.
Licensing, participation, voting. Some rights are restored over time, such as your right to obtain a professional or trade license, to serve in a public office, and to vote. To obtain these rights after probation or parole you need to qualify for a Certificate of Relief or a Certificate of Good Conduct; both are issued by the NYS Division of Parole. How you qualify for these depends on the type of crime committed and the amount of time that has passed since you were released. The right is restored when you are released from incarceration. You have the right to vote while on parole (and you never lost that right if you were on probation).
Employment. It is against the Civil Rights Act to be barred from employment because of a felony by an organization of 15 or more people unless the conviction is closely related to the job. If you feel you have experienced employment discrimination, you can file a complaint with the NY State Division of Human Rights. Knowing your rights of employment and being clear about how your conviction is represented in public documents, such as a RAP sheet, is important. Learn more about RAP sheets on this page. More on finding employment is in The Prime Objective and the Job Search Tool Kit – both are linked on the Jobs page of this guide.
Legal services. A number of organizations familiar with the typical challenges you may face, can provide you with legal services. Three good things to know: (1) Lawyers are necessary for things like discrimination, criminal matters , executing advance directives. (2) There are specialized agencies that handle immigration law and issues. (3) There are low cost or sliding scale payment resources.