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.
I am Change
I am change, and here’s what I hope:
I hope people see a bit of themselves in the We Are All Criminals photos or in the stories. I hope people remember things they’ve done – events that haven’t been used to define their character at life’s every opportunity and turn.
I hope in that reflection, people take note of the context they allowed themselves (I was young, drunk, stupid, in college, hanging out with the wrong crowd, just along for the ride, no one was hurt, I gave it back, or I didn’t mean to do it) and acknowledge that others may have been in a similar situation but were caught.
I hope some recognize the privilege they’ve experienced (the cop just told us to go home, the manager didn’t even question us) and appreciate that not everyone has benefited from that same privilege.
I hope viewers reflect upon how very different their own lives would be had they been burdened by a record, and consider the foreclosed futures of all of those who have been caught.
Finally, I hope the project inspires people to take action: even if they don’t contact Emily or share their own story through the site, I hope they work to create the capacity for second chances in their own professional and personal lives, and to seek policy changes that do the same.
Starting points for change:
- Reduce our criminal code. Over the last few decades, our criminal code has exploded in size. We can reel that back by reducing the criminalization of homelessness, mental illness, juvenile behavior, poverty, and drugs.
- Support and increase restorative justice alternatives. A restorative justice-based response to crime is a community-building response.
- Reduce the collection, retention, and dissemination of criminal and juvenile records.
- Create meaningful remedies to criminal records. Through expungements, pardons, and certificates of rehabilitation, allow people to move beyond their records.
- Reduce the collateral sanctions attached to criminal records. Put an end to the perpetual punishment by allowing people to work, rent or own a home, go to school, take out a loan, travel, naturalize, receive benefits, vote – and partake in countless other of life’s activities and opportunities.
- Begin the dialogue change in your community. Talk to your family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, at your church, school, bookstore, or coffee shop.
More information on how to get involved in specific change within your state is coming soon.