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: Underage Drinking; Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor; Possession and Conspiracy to Sell Controlled Substances; Assault; Driving While Intoxicated; Child Endangerment

hands story

Freshman year, I started drinking.

Sophomore year, I was a go-between for a dope dealing friend and the football team. He sold more than just pot — ecstasy, sheets and sheets of acid — but I never ran more than marijuana. 

Junior year, I spent Tuesday nights loading up my bloodstream with drinks and my car with pounds of marijuana for a friend from a nearby town. It’s amazing I was never pulled over on the long drive back.

Senior year, my friends and I made a lot of money selling keg beer and jungle juice to underage kids.

In law school, I got into a drunken street fight. My friend pulled me out of the middle just as the cops were closing in.

Up until a few years ago, I was still driving drunk. I knew what I was doing was wrong and how stupid it was. For example, one night after four tallboys, I drove my little girl home in a car with a broken taillight, right through an area heavy with police presence. Two weeks later on the same stretch, I was pulled over for the taillight – but this time, I was sober.

I still mind-trip over that: it’s just pure luck that I wasn’t stopped the night I’d been drinking. If I had been, they probably would have taken my daughter from me.

How would my life be different had I been caught? In college, I probably would have gotten wrapped up in the system. I was an angsty alcoholic – angry and with a bad attitude. I could see how that, if coupled with police interaction, could have ended poorly.

If I had been caught for some of the later activities, I don’t know where I’d be. Once you reach a certain point, once you’re a certain age, people are no longer willing to forgive.