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.

Former legislator: Felony Disarming a Peace Officer


The summer before I left for college I worked as a lifeguard at a park in North Minneapolis. I was the youngest in a pool of young, inexperienced, and decidedly uncool lifeguards.

It was a poor park. Racially integrated, but pretty poor. It was crowded, the summer was hot, and every day there were fights.

There was a policeman that worked at the park, and he wasn’t what you would call a really great guy. He had a billy club he named Old Glory.

When there were fights at the pool (and there were a lot) the officer would poke the kids’ ribs or whack their shins with Old Glory to break it up. One day, two kids were shouting and shoving each other and one pushed the cop. Angry, he cracked Old Glory across this boy’s head, and the kid’s eyes rolled back as he hit the ground unconscious.

A few days later, the policeman was in the locker room playing a dice game, craps maybe, with some of the other lifeguards. He had left his billy club near the shower a few feet away. He was distracted so I took the opportunity to grab it. This guy is cracking people on top of the head with this thing, I thought. Maybe he shouldn’t have it around for a while. So I swiped Old Glory.

I showed it to all my friends. It was an impressive thing. Eventually I returned it, pretending I had just come upon it one morning. Everyone thought some kid from the neighborhood had taken it. Then it was back to whacking as usual, but for at least a portion of the summer we were all spared Old Glory.