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.

Financial planner: Theft, Possession of Controlled Substances

stealing story

I made a list because I couldn’t remember everything. Mostly it’s shoplifting and drug crimes.

So there’s filching from the big-box stores. (Only national chains; I have a great deal of respect for local businesses.) I never really felt comfortable until I read about “left-handing it.” You just hold whatever it is you’re stealing in your left hand as you go through check out. If they call you on it you say, Oh yeah, this too. It’s shoplifting with a high level of plausible deniability.

As for drugs – I’ve used pot, shrooms, and dextromethorphan. I have done, but never had a habit of, coke, heroin (snorted), and oxycodone.

But the best drug story happened in college. I was out taking pictures at the Capitol when I decided to stop in and talk to the legislators.  I went to one guy’s office and was told he wasn’t in. And I thought God, that legislator’s aid smells like pot. Oh, whatever. They hire weird people up here. So I go to the next office and three more, and at each I was told the legislators weren’t there and at each I thought, that aid smells like pot. Then I got outside and realized Oh shit, I’m carrying. I’m the one that smells like pot. 

So, yeah. That’s about it.