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.

Business owner: Theft


When I was 12 we would go to the 7-11 near my parents’ house to spend our allowances. I had a decent baseball card collection and wanted more. My allowance wasn’t great, however. So I came up with a plan.

I went into the 7-11 and bought as many baseball card packs as my allowance could afford, minus one. I approached the counter and handed the clerk the eight packs and my cash. She gave me back a small amount of change. I left the store, rounding the building’s corner to where my little brother was waiting. All according to plan, I gave the eight packs to him and then returned alone to the store. I shoved another eight packs into my pockets before walking up to the counter with one more in my hand. I told the clerk that I had enough money with my change to buy one more pack. She was wary so she blocked me from leaving and called for the manager. He’s stealing, she said. She must have seen me stuffing them in my jacket. Hey, I was in here five minutes ago. These are the packs I just bought, I said, emptying my pockets.

The manager looked at the receipt and at the eight packs from my pockets and said, Okay, you can go. It was the perfect crime for a 12-year-old.

She was 16 when she was caught extending her J.C. Penney employee discount to friends, her first illegal act. She was fired, but not before her manager called the police, and added her name to a “Do Not Hire” list distributed to big retailers.

She completed all the conditions the prosecutor sought for the theft and the case was dismissed. She couldn’t find a job in retail, so she started babysitting.

It wasn’t until she was 2 classes shy of graduating college with a degree in Early Childhood Family Education that she found out that her juvenile arrest and charge meant that she was barred by the state from getting a childcare provider license for another 3 years.