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.

Social worker: Assault

swpp-office-two PortaPottySocialWorker2

I have a rap sheet of uncaught crimes, most pretty insignificant. We were naughty kids—pulling fire alarms, smoking pot, and bolting from our private school to drink beer by the lake in our uniforms.

But I suppose the thing that I feel the worst about happened on senior skip day. We had been partying all night, hanging out at the lake. I don’t think that we were too intoxicated, but certainly not clear-headed.

A classmate had gone into the park’s Porta Potty. She was the type that would powder her nose, you know? Not like me, not like us. Once she was in the Porta Potty, a few of us shoved our weight against one side, tipping it over with her in it. It was just a reaction, a response to me being there and her being there.

Feces, urine—the waste covered her.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but I wasn’t expecting that. We ran as fast as we could. I saw her later. She was angry, but more than that, she was deeply embarrassed. I think she knew who did it, but she never said anything.

I left for college a few months later and eventually got a good paying job. I gave up drinking for Lent, pulled myself out of the social situation I was in, and started to work on me.

Looking back, I can contextualize it. I was lost and wanted to be accepted. I lacked self-confidence and self-worth. I was easily influenced by people around me. That person who tipped the Porta Potty, that wasn’t me, but I didn’t know that then.

I’ve always been interested in helping people. That’s how I was made. It just took me a while to get there.

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