Systemic Barriers to Employment
Folks convicted of drug possession are often saddled with crippling court-imposed fines, fees, costs, and assessments that they cannot afford to pay. These can include court costs, public defender application fees, and surcharges on incurred fines, among others. They often come on top of the price of bail (if defendants can afford it), income-earning opportunities lost due to incarceration, and the financial impact of a criminal record. For those who choose to hire an attorney, the costs of defending their case may have already left them in debt or struggling to make ends meet for months or even years to come.
A drug conviction also keeps many people from getting a job, renting a home, and accessing benefits and other programs they may need to support themselves and their families—and to enjoy full civil and social participation. Federal law allows states to lock people out of welfare assistance and public housing for years and sometimes even for life based on a drug conviction. People convicted of drug possession may no longer qualify for educational loans; they may be forced to rely on public transport because their driver’s license is automatically suspended; they may be banned from juries and the voting booth; and they may face deportation if they are not US citizens, no matter how many decades they have lived in the US or how many of their family members live in the country.