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.
Licensed Counselor: Underage Drinking; Reckless Driving; Petty Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession; Criminal Damage to Property; Driving Under the Influence; Unauthorized Distribution of a Controlled Substance
What have I gotten away with? At first, all I could recall was underage drinking, although not a lot of it. But then I thought about it some more, and as I continued to think about it, everything got bigger and bigger.
Reckless driving? Yes. A lot. Marijuana? Yes. Damage to property? Yes. (I drove the getaway car when my friends sawed down the local truck-stop sign.) Did I drink and drive? Well, yes. I don’t think I can come up with exactly how many times, but I’d say somewhere around ten.
Kids do stupid things, and I was no exception.
I come from a poor family, where expectations of me weren’t that high. Had I been put in the juvenile system at any point, I may have decided not to have high expectations of myself.
Perhaps most frightening, though, was something that happened the year after I became a licensed counselor. I had leftover Klonopin and a friend who had difficulty sleeping. I brought the pills over to her house in a little baggie – not even considering that it might be illegal.
I can’t imagine I’d be where I’m at now if I had been caught. I don’t think I’d be here, with this job, with these beautiful daughters, with this beautiful life.