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.

Teacher: Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

bird story

Here’s what happened: I purchased alcohol once for a family friend. I was thirty and teaching at the time. She was underage and in search of a drink. She was also depressed. I don’t know if I knew then that she was drinking quite as much as she was.

But I was old enough to know better. I was jeopardizing my job – and my career for life. If I had been caught, I would have lost my job and likely would not have received a teacher’s license ever again.

Why did I do it? I think in part because I was shocked: no one had ever asked me to do anything like that before. A friend once said that my greatest fault was wanting everyone to like me. So maybe that’s why I did it.  

My friend killed herself a few years after that. The bigger significance here was that the one thing I did to help her was to get alcohol; I’ve always wondered what more positive thing could I have done.

That’s been hanging over my head for many, many years. I’d like to think of myself as a person who tries to help people, but in this situation I didn’t. I understand that on a rational level I’m not responsible, that I didn’t hurt her – but the dots still connect on an emotional level.