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A rare study focused on convicted white collar criminals and their ability to reintegrate with society after their release from prison. Findings gathered by researchers revealed that such offenders continue to pay for their crimes in light of the detrimental effects borne by archived online publications associated with their crime.

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth (UP), a public educational institution in Hampshire, England concluded that criminal punishments now have enduring effects. Primarily because the stigma of their criminal conviction is kept alive by the digital publications, which prevents them from securing better paying jobs.

The lead author of the study, Dr David Shepherd, a Senior Research Associate at the University of Portsmouth’s Institute of Criminal Justice Studies reported that

”Their analysis of digital media indicate that even stories carried by the local press create a so-called "personal digital criminal legacy" (PDCL) that produces a sustained destructive vitality. The resulting stigmatisation causes widespread and enduring detrimental impacts not only on offenders, but on their families as well. That is not excluding those and the families of those who have been wrongly accused."

In conclusion, the University of Portsmouth study presented indications that the power of the Internet poses a major challenge to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974), particularly the confidentiality provisions of the law.

The UP Researchers Interviewed Participants Whose Digital Identity Have Been Permanently Criminalised

As it is, digital media possess archive, search and share features that ensure the crime perpetrated by criminal offenders will stick to their online identity even long after they had served their sentence. The analysis shows that in ending up with a PDCL, such digital media features tend to sustain the PDCL’s detrimental and distressful impact, which continuously disrupt the lives of affected offenders and their families.