The 48,000 obstacles to reentry

Marissa Wells

There are 48,000 collateral consequences that formerly incarcerated people face upon release from prison or jail. These systemic and often life-long obstacles are significant barriers to successful reentry because they limit or prohibit people with criminal records from accessing employment, occupational licensing, housing, voting, education, and other opportunities. In many cases, these penalties are not even related to the crimes committed, and they can limit people with conviction histories in some surprising ways. Some of the more outrageous consequences include:

  • Denial of a Bingo Caller License
  • Denial of a Dog Walker License
  • Denial of Car Salesmen License
  • Cannot serve on PTA Board


Some of the collateral consequences unique to California include issues related to maintaining or obtaining occupational licenses, family/domestic rights, and access to educational opportunities and benefits.

The 48,000 burdens loom over the heads of formerly incarcerated people as they attempt to move forward in their lives. These people have paid their debt to society. Such obstacles to reentry create a system that ultimately jeopardizes formerly incarcerated people’s quest for stability.

In a new series on our blog, we will explore the impact that such barriers have had on the women housed at A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project (ANWOL). We’ll talk to new residents in the program, as well as those who have transitioned to more independent living. You will journey with them as they share the experience of reclaiming  their lives.

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