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.

Corrections professional: Sale of controlled substances


Hopefully I’m not wasting your time; everyone thinks their history is more dramatic than it is.

I got into trouble constantly as a kid.

In high school I started experimenting with alcohol, marijuana, whatever I could get my hands on. I was still in school when I started living out of my car, sleeping in Walmart parking lots and dodging cops.

After about a year I moved into a house with two college gentlemen and started dating a girl who kinda lived in the basement. I picked up a job at a gas station, but it was just a cover. What I really did to make money was sell blotter (or, LSD). I’d buy a sheet with 100 hits for $150 and sell each hit for five dollars. It was more than enough money to support myself, but eventually just went to buy meth – my drug of choice. A lot of crime comes from that: people trying to sustain a drug addiction.

These two older guys, Odysseus and The General, would come over and we’d spend the night partying. They were incredibly resourceful: we’d steal swing sets from Menards and music equipment from neighboring venues, returning and pawning everything for cash and then hitting up the sellers downtown.

I wonder if the color of my skin didn’t save me from serious problems. More than once, I’d get pulled over by a cop and – no matter how out of my mind I was – I’d be told to have a nice day.

I don’t know where O and The General are now. I know a lot of it was drug induced – I love you brother and everything, but I did care for them. For a while, O was pimping. There was a deep internal screening going on, everything was so muffled in regards to your morale. Now I would have nothing to do with anyone selling women for money, but then, we all just looked the other way.

When my first kid was born, I cut off everything. I haven’t had anything for twelve years; my wife could tell you the exact date. According to my therapist, incidents of abuse caused me to spin out. But I think I just liked feeling different. I lacked any confidence, but when I altered my mind, it was bearable.

I’m careful. I don’t take Nyquil because I like feeling different, and I know I’ll want to feel different again tomorrow.