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.
Program developer: Theft, Indecent Exposure, Minor Consumption, False Identification, Possession of Marijuana
Generally, my offenses aren’t that big of a deal.
I drank underage in high school and college. I went to bars with my sister’s ID. I’ve smoked pot, but never bought it. I guess I’ve illegally downloaded music; that was huge in the dorms.
Let’s see. There was a pizza-by-the-slice place on campus. You order your slice from one person, pay another and get it from a third. At night, it was so busy you could definitely sneak around the second person so you wouldn’t have to pay. You’re not taking it from anyone—it’s yours—you just didn’t pay for it. I did that multiple times and I definitely never did it when sober. I guess I didn’t have the courage otherwise.
Oh, there’s another thing, and telling you about this one is a little bit embarrassing. The college I went to was on a lake and skinny-dipping was kind of a thing. One day I went down to the private docks with this guy I had been dating. We started out in the lake and ended up on the dock. After we were done with it, we got dressed and headed back to the dorms. As we were walking up the hill, a police officer was walking down. Had we taken a little bit longer, he definitely would have seen us. That would have not been good.
You know, with the college mindset, you do these things that in the morning are a funny story—nothing you think of as illegal.
Overall, I suppose I’ve done some pretty stupid things—but none of it defines who I am.