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.

Medical researcher: Vandalism, Trespass, Criminal Damage to Property

vandal story

When I was in middle school, I got into graffiti. I did it for several years, tagging under bridges (dodging vigilante bikers), on the backsides of stores (climbing concrete blocks to do a piece), and down in the sewers. One time I went to the playground near my school, in the middle of the day. I climbed to the top of the jungle gym and left a handstyle of my name. It’s a playground I used to go to as a kid; I guess I just wanted to leave my mark. Sometime later, I was walking by and thought What’s that squiggle? Oh, yeah. I did that. I suppose there was a territorial aspect to it.

A friend of mine got caught once and then again. He went to jail and we lost touch. Another dropped out of school and eventually joined a gang.

Now when I look back on it, it was a time of teen angst. If I were born into a different socioeconomic status, it might have been the thing that broke the camel’s back: the thing that got me going in the wrong direction.