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.

Parks employee: Indecent Exposure, Trespassing, Possession of Controlled Substances, and Minor Consumption

parks story

I don’t have too many singular, amazing stories. In general, I was an average suburban kid. But that was not inconsistent breaking the law: my criminal acts were almost culturally mandated, like rites of passage.

For example, trespassing was a necessary part of my high school experience. Sneaking into parks after midnight to hook up was the realization of an American trope: you know, going out into the hayfield to mess around. It’s this transgression that’s sanctioned by our culture. It was relatively innocent—but there are so many ways that, had the circumstances been different, it would have seemed like something so much worse. Of course, there were times when these encounters did involve marijuana or alcohol, so the stakes were a bit higher, although it never really felt that way.

The same can be said for my soft patterns of recreational drug use, although I don’t know how valuable it is for you to hear stories of the time I tried cocaine or any other drugs…