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CCNMTL and Columbia Law School Launch Collateral Consequences Calculator

Home > News & Updates > CCNMTL and Columbia Law School Launch Collateral Consequences Calculator

May 12, 2010. The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) and Columbia Law School announced the launch of the Collateral Consequences Calculator, a dynamic web-based tool that will help legal professionals in New York State identify the immigration and public housing consequences of criminal convictions. Judge Judith S. Kaye, former Chief Judge of New York State, considered these collateral consequences of criminal charges a significant social justice issue due to their potentially devastating effects on criminal defendants and their families.

Criminal defendants in New York State often plead guilty to crimes without being fully advised of the collateral consequences of those charges. These consequences can include deportation, inability to visit the United States, or ineligibility for public housing. Because collateral consequences touch on so many areas of law, even the most highly skilled defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges may not possess the requisite knowledge to fully understand the repercussions of criminal charges.

The Calculator will provide legal practitioners and judges with an unprecedented at-a-glance overview of the immigration and public housing eligibility consequences that attach to a plea offer or criminal conviction. A number of other audiences will also benefit from the Calculator; legal academics can build case studies around it, judges can assure appropriate sentencing, and public policy researchers can use it as a lens through which to examine the real-world impact of abstract policy choices.

Conrad Johnson, clinical professor of law and co-founder of the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic at the Law School, partnered with CCNMTL in 2007 to design a system that could mitigate the knowledge gap surrounding collateral consequences in New York State. Over the past three years, law students, legal experts, and educational technologists at CCNMTL developed the Calculator, which allows users to select offenses in the New York State penal law and receive an immediate online overview of which consequences would be certain, probable, or possible as a result of conviction. Users can also use the Calculator to compare specified consequences to another offense. “The Calculator can serve as a valuable starting point in analyzing the immigration and public housing eligibility consequences of a conviction,” said Johnson.

CCNMTL’s developers custom-built the Calculator by modeling the relationship between offenses and consequences. The unique system enables Johnson and his team to specify the relevant connections between elements of the model, and then displays these results in a concise, intelligible way. CCNMTL plans to make the templates and programming code from the Calculator available to nonprofit and government organizations outside of New York, allowing others to create state-specific Calculators.

“The Collateral Consequences Calculator has the capacity to make lawyers, judges and defendants more aware of the indirect repercussions of their actions and decisions in the lives of defendants and their families,” said Frank Moretti, CCNMTL executive director.

The Collateral Consequences Calculator was developed within CCNMTL's Triangle Initiative, which creates digital tools and capacities that simultaneously serve the intersecting interests of education, research, and the larger community. View the Calculator at http://calculator.law.columbia.edu.

Related links:
pdf link Download the press release (PDF)

Related news:
May-14-2010: New York Law Journal Features New Collateral Consequences Calculator
Mar-20-2007: Chief Judge Kaye Supports Collateral Consequences Site