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.

Biophysicist: First Degree Assault for the Benefit of a Gang

Assault 2

He was 14 when his family moved to the neighborhood. The six-by-five block radius was rough, but not the roughest in town. That said, when J found himself befriended by two older guys from around the corner, things got noticeably better. There was Junior, a man who had dropped out of school when he was still a boy, and Deion, who was only 17 but walked with the authority of someone far older. There were others, too: Judge, Manny, and Bugs were three on J’s side of the street, just two doors down. In some sense, if he really thought about it, J supposed he was in a gang.

The summer J turned 15 started off uneventfully. His parents worked double shifts and were rarely home and there was little to do other than hang out and will the cool morning air to linger a little longer into the afternoon. It was on one of those ordinary mornings that everything changed.

There was a knock at the front door. Through the screen, J could see a boy cupping his eyes to block out the sun and peer through the mesh. The boy asked if J’s parents were home. He was selling magazines for a fundraiser. When J told him they wouldn’t be back until dinner, the boy thanked him and said he’d stop by later.

Soon after, Junior stopped by on his morning rounds. When J offhandedly mentioned the magazine seller, Junior perked up. Apparently, there had been a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood. Rumor had it that a boy from another gang had been breaking into nearby garages, stealing tools and other pawnables in the middle of the day.

Within minutes, eight or nine of J’s friends, including Deion and Manny, gathered in J’s garage, smoking cigarettes and speaking sparingly. After what seemed like an hour, J heard someone walking along the rocks that lined the garage’s south wall. A moment later, the magazine seller’s face appeared at the window. It was too bright outside and too dark inside for him to see J and the others. He deftly jimmied the window open and began to crawl inside. The boy realized he was not alone when he got half-way through the window. He yelped and tried squirming back out but Junior caught him by the neck and pulled him in.

J doesn’t know where the lead pipe came from but he remembers that Junior swung first, hitting the boy in the stomach with such force that J staggered backward and into Manny.

One by one everyone took a turn till it came to J. It wasn’t a question. It was an ultimatum. Do it, or you’re next.

J remembers the sound of the lead pipe hitting the boy—a soft wet pop, like the sound canned jam makes when the vacuum seal is broken. He remembers the smell of sick and blood and piss, the stench of hate and fear and nothingness. He remembers the knots swelling up on the boy’s face like midday suns threatening to explode.

Someone else—Deion?—dragged the boy away. J never saw him again.

Youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system are more likely to sustain or increase their level of delinquent behavior; severe sanctions can result in increases in future delinquent or criminal involvement, rather than a decline.

– Dept. of Public Safety Office of Justice Program’s “On the Level: Disproportionate Minority Contact in Minnesota’s Juvenile Justice System”