Saturday, September 23, 2017

GateHouse: ‘Piling on’ offenders, the penalty that never ends

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 23, 2017
Much has been made of Harvard University’s decision not to admit Michelle Jones into its doctoral program over the recommendation of the university’s history department.
Jones served 20 years in prison for murdering her 4-year-old son. During her time behind bars, according to the New York Times, Jones compiled a record of accomplishment that would be remarkable even for someone who had never been incarcerated.
Scenario’s like Jones’ play out every day in America. The stigma of a criminal conviction haunts former offenders for life. Recently, on a college campus a long way from Harvard, a student with a juvenile criminal conviction for rape faced an onslaught of public outrage and ultimately the capitulation of the university.
Ma’lik Richmond the on again, off again, Youngstown State University (YSU) football player is embroiled in a controversial lawsuit of his own making. However, does that make what is happening at Youngstown State right?
Richmond served about 10 months in a juvenile detention facility after he and a Steubenville High School teammate were convicted in 2013 of rape a 16-year-old girl during a party.
Richmond was released in January 2014 and attended colleges in West Virginia and Pennsylvania before transferring to YSU in the fall 2016.
Richmond did an unspeakable thing. He committed a terrible crime. As a result, he served time and as a 21-year-old is a registered sex-offender — having to report to authorities once a year for 10 years.
Richmond, by all accounts, was a pretty good high school football player. That, and allegations of a cover-up to protect the “prestige” of Steubenville High School football, contributed to the international notoriety the case received.
In January, he joined the YSU football team as a non-scholarship walk-on. In August, Richmond was informed by YSU officials that he would be required to sit-out a season. He had not broken any university rule or violated any policy of the university or the football program.
He was declared ineligible by the university because public sentiment had turned against him. The Board of Trustees turned up the pressure on the YSU administration and the result was Richmond had to sit.
Richmond didn’t take the decision lightly. He filed suit against the university and a federal judge granted him a temporary injunction. He played against Central Connecticut State University last Saturday. A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Sept. 28 will not be the end of it for Ma’lik Richmond or other people, young and old, with criminal records.
Federal, state, and local laws impose an ever growing set of barriers on people with criminal records, no matter how small. The so called collateral consequences of conviction vary depending on the type of crime committed, but can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life, including admission into institutions of higher learning and apparently participation in extracurricular activities.
According to the Sentencing Project, many collateral consequences apply automatically to anyone with a conviction, without taking into account the nature of the offense or how long ago the crime was committed. Most apply for life, without any method for relief, even if the person never again commits a crime.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice Department funded a project, run by the American Bar Association, to create a database of collateral consequences. They found more than 44,000 such consequences nationwide.
To use a football metaphor, politicians across the country just keep “piling on” those convicted of a crime. As Jones and Richmond now know, marginalizing former offenders is not exclusively for politicians.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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