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.

Federal officer: Aiding and Abetting Sale of Controlled Substances

border pic story

I had been the straight kid who enjoyed the company of delinquents. But I knew my limits: anytime cocaine showed up at a party, I would leave, or if it was my place, I’d kick everyone out. But pot isn’t the end of the world.

In high school and college, my friends and I would pack into my car and hit up the Grateful Dead concert tour.  I preferred to be the designated driver (tame by comparison, with the occasional toke of pot). But on more than one occasion, there were hundreds of dollars of hallucinogenic mushrooms, LSD, hash and weed, on the persons of my passengers – some of it intended for sale.

There was one very close call: coming back from a concert in Canada, the border patrol found a wooden pipe with THC resin in my boyfriend’s tackle box. They ripped my car apart, searching for more. When they couldn’t find anything else, they let us go.

A few years later, I was appointed to a position in the federal court system working in the very district where I was stopped.  Ironically – eighty percent of my caseload was drug dealers.