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: Theft, Trespassing, Possession of Controlled Substances, Driving While Intoxicated


I was a nice boy and then sometimes I wasn’t. We stole little things

candy, trinkets, stuff you could hide in your pocket

and big things

auto parts from a nearby junk yard (we called it the “midnight auto supply”); the steering wheel of a parked car at a filling station (we used it in building a Frankenstein go-cart); a stop sign (which we unbolted and installed in our college dorm room).

We’d throw snowballs at cars, sling-shot rocks and BBs at moving freight trains. We’d drive after drinking, and inhale when smoking pot. We’d sneak into garages and barns just to have a look, and climb out onto the roofs of office buildings.

We did it for the moment, for the thrill. But I never thought I’m a bad guy. If you come to think of yourself as criminal, you’ve passed a threshold.  You get onto a trajectory that’s a bad path. Thankfully, I wasn’t caught and I didn’t consider myself bad– nor did others.

Experimenting with delinquency is normal – and so is giving it up. How many kids get a police record, or a longer record, for the same or even fewer criminal acts my friends and I did?

I have that story. Everybody has that story. If you find someone who claims they’ve never committed a crime, either they’re lying, they have a poor memory, or they’re very abnormal.