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.

Attorney: Sale of Controlled Substances


When I was 14, I picked up a fast food job working with older kids. One night, they thought it would be funny to get me, the weird nerdy kid, high. Soon I went from occasionally to enthusiastically smoking, then to selling. By my sophomore year in college, I had more than $20,000 in savings and a shared brick of cocaine in the dorm room.

There are a million incidental stories in between that I can only kind of remember now. I ran from police. I was held at gunpoint. I helped a juvenile who’d sold on my behalf leave the state to flee an arrest warrant. Someone I knew died after taking drugs that came from me. I OD’d a few times and came back, and I never had to worry about the medical bills. I was questioned by a DEA representative in the hospital after one, and then I was promptly forgotten about as the investigation moved on.

I’ve had so many lucky breaks, you know?

Like, I’ll never forget this one time. I brought in Adderall and Xanax into the projects—a pretty gritty neighborhood—and left with half a pound of weed, six grams of coke, some acid, some ecstasy, and some mushrooms. Several felony amounts.

It was 2:30 in the morning and I was two blocks out of this guy’s apartment when this cop pulls me over. He looks in and takes one look at me and—I will remember this to the day I die—goes What are you doing in this part of town?

If I had been black, I know he never would have asked me that question.

I was like, I don’t know. I turned off the interstate to get some gas. I just got out of a concert? I think I got lost. I don’t think I’m supposed to be here—this looks like a bad neighborhood. He gave me the fastest route to the interstate, didn’t even ask for my driver’s license or registration.

I guess I thought this would all be fun and exciting. It was just depressing and terrifying. And I hurt a lot of people in a lot of ways. I watched a people get hurt and hurt themselves, and I never did anything to stop it. That still bugs me.

You wonder why I’m motivated to do the work I do today? I kinda feel like I owe it to someone at this point. I didn’t earn this second chance, but I can put it to good use.

Despite comparable usage rates, Blacks were nearly eight times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites in Minnesota. ACLU