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.

Jail staff: Possession of Controlled Substances


In high school it was weed, college mostly mushrooms. I loved mushrooms. I’d buy mushrooms today if I knew someone who could get them —it’s just I’ve severed those ties.

I credit Adderall for my undergrad graduation, though. My friends and I were fuck ups. Smart fuck ups but fuck ups nonetheless. Three days before graduation, we were all past due on our final papers. Our professors had been lenient, but there’s a limit to that, right? So we set up shop outside at a picnic table, chain smoked and pounded away at our keyboards. Every three hours a friend would dole out the pills: two for you, two for you, two for me. We were united, in it together. We didn’t eat or sleep or blink for three days. I remember looking up from the monitor to see people on morning walks with their dogs; a hot second later they’d be on the evening walk: time had collapsed.

I don’t know what I wrote—but it was good enough to graduate. We celebrated the occasion with ecstasy, but because I’d been on uppers for three days straight, I didn’t feel a thing. I was searching the trees’ leaves for something different, something beautiful. Nothing. I didn’t need ecstasy; I needed sleep.

A while later I interviewed for a job at a jail. Without a record, I only had to worry about self-disclosure during the psych eval. I was terrified; I practiced “no, never” “not for me” over and over. A few weeks later, they called: I got the job.

Then there I was, on one side of the bars for doing something a lot of guys on the other side had gotten caught for. I knew it was a matter of privilege. Are you bullshitting me, I thought. I felt like a hypocrite, so I stopped.