Employment: The presence of a criminal record can more than halve the chances that a job applicant will receive a call back for a job interview.

Housing: Finding housing (public or private) is extremely difficult with a criminal record. This results in increased homelessness and split families – where the person with a record (a parent, child, or other family member) is forced to find shelter elsewhere.

Education: Despite no established link between criminal records and campus safety, records make admission into higher education – and financial assistance to support it – very difficult.

Working in licensed places and positions: State law prohibits people with certain records from working in fields or facilities with vulnerable people. Here, hundreds of crimes disqualify job applicants from seven years to life for records ranging from conviction to mere arrest.

Immigration: Criminal records can have a profound and permanent effect on one’s immigration status, results ranging from the inability to naturalize (and petition family members to live in the US) to deportation.

Voting: 70,000 Minnesotans can’t vote due to a felony conviction. This disproportionately impacts African Americans (10% disenfranchised) and Native Americans (6.5%). Meanwhile, research has shown that civic engagement can reduce recidivism.

Travel: Criminal records can prevent people from traveling outside of the United States, from crossing the Canadian border to obtaining a travel visa.

Government assistance: Criminal records, drug convictions in particular, can cause blockades to receiving government assistance for individuals and their families.


confess yellow beer

I was about twelve to fifteen at the time. My cousin Bobby and I used to steal my grandmother’s boxes of matches and light things on fire between her house and her neighbor’s house.

Well, there was an old man next door. You could hear these sounds come up from his basement. You’d hear hammering, sometimes a little bit of screaming. We weren’t really too sure what it was.

One day, I can’t remember what the circumstance was, but we were causing some trouble between the houses when we heard some of those sounds again. We figured, You know what? This guy is up to something. We’re gonna show him that what he’s doing, whatever it is, is wrong.

He had this garage in the back of his yard and he kept bottles of beer back there. So we went back to his garage and we took out some of the beer bottles. We popped the caps off and dumped them out. We pissed in about five of those bottles and put the caps back on.

I’d like to think that he drank them himself, but as the years went by, I can’t help but think maybe one of those bottles went to someone who didn’t deserve it.