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: Possession of Controlled Substances, Trespass, Underage Consumption, Public Intoxication, False Identification, Driving Under the Influence, Public Urination, Indecent Exposure, and Theft

rationalize story

Let’s see. I smoked weed for the first time the summer after eighth grade at the town water tower with my best friend and a couple of crushes. I continued to smoke on and off throughout high school. It was a small town, so at times the only real options were weed, sex, or swimming in the creek. 

I’ve been drunk underage and outside; I’ve used my cousin’s ID to get into bars. I once drove after smoking weed.

I have definitely peed outside and run through the local college campus naked more than once.

I’ve sneaked into the cafeteria to steal food—but can rationalize it by looking at how much daily waste there was. I stole something from a garage sale—but the next day everything was free, so I’m not really sure if that counts. I used to give away ice cream to friends and family when I worked at DQ—but the owner was sort of creepy so it was okay. I’ve stolen music online—but who hasn’t?

At the time, we could rationalize all of it.

Very few people in my town leave my town. I definitely wouldn’t have been one of those that got out had I picked up a record. I look back and can see the kids that got caught, and they’re still there.