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.

Student: Aggravated Robbery

charity jar story

I was 15; I was lost. All the worst things had happened at the worst possible time: the girl my foolish 15 year-old self thought I loved left for Europe, my best friend had come back from an extended vacation with a crippling addiction to cocaine. Life was not particularly fun.

At this time, my cousins lived across the street. We always hung together, doing random stuff. One day, one of them said, Do you want to rob somebody? It had never crossed my mind before.

Why not? It’s not like I had anything better to do. Besides, it was a way to take my mind off all of these things. I wouldn’t say they pressured me into it, but I wouldn’t have come to that conclusion myself.

Later that night, we covered our faces with scarves and waited around a different neighborhood till we found someone who looked like a good target. We stopped this person, held them at knifepoint, and took the watch, money, and left the ID.

I never read anything about it, never heard anything about it. We split everything between us.

Months went by, and I couldn’t spend the money. I kept it for so long… I eventually just put it in a charity jar, and sent it on its way.

It never hit me. I never felt bad. Looking back, I regret it, but I don’t feel bad about it.

I just wish I had made a different decision.