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.

Theft, Illegal Drug Use, Accessory to a Crime

1-Your Story 7

The person pictured above did not submit the story below. She voluntarily posed for the photo to stand in solidarity with those living with the stigma of a criminal record, and those participating in the project. This story was submitted by an online participant, via the Your Story tab.

You know, people come to me as a sort of moral compass. When a question of right or wrong comes up, I usually get a phone call. I’m Christian and a social worker and I serve refugees and asylum seekers. People think I’m simple-minded, especially because I’m a Christian, and only an idiot would believe in God.

Truly though, I was a mess growing up. When I was a teenager I stole constantly, mostly from my high school, and I shoplifted pretty frequently. Sometimes I stole money, cigarettes, and alcohol, but mostly it was something dumb like hot pockets. I must have stolen at least 80 disgusting hot pockets.

I also purchased and used illegal drugs at school, a drug-free zone. I didn’t really sell drugs, but I shared them with younger friends, and went to class absolutely drunk from time to time when I was 15 or 16.

I was an accomplice to more serious crimes as well, like vehicular theft and countless drug deals. Several of my friends robbed houses in the neighborhood, and I didn’t do anything to stop them or warn anyone.

It was such a weird culture in our neighborhood– there was so much bitterness that we were all steeping in. I got sick of it and pushed everything away. I was desperate to get out of that little town, and somehow I got accepted into a college. I moved away and it was like trying to pull myself out of tar, I can still feel the sticky residue under my nails. Everyone felt betrayed, but we didn’t particularly care too much about one another anyway, so it wasn’t such a hard break.

Oh and I cheated my entire way though High School. I could do the work, I just chose not to. When I got to college I resolved to never lie, cheat, steal, partake of any crime, or allow myself to remain silent while something was happening. The last part has been the hardest. My sister was being abused by her boyfriend, and I knew about it. I didn’t report it. My brother slaps his son and I haven’t reported that either. It’s immobilizing to drive a wedge like that between your already fractured family.

Other than that, I graduated college with a degree and honors. I got prestigious national scholarships. I traveled and worked internationally, and got accepted into grad school.

When I go home, whoever’s not in jail is on probation. I don’t know how I was never caught, but if this world was just I would be in a lot worse place than I am now.

I know that my privilege got me out of a lot of things, and into a lot of others, and I don’t know what to do about it. Maybe that’s why I spend my life advocating for those who pay the price that must be paid for me being a privileged white American woman who shops at Walmart. I try to use my voice to speak for the voiceless, and my hands and education to build structures that can help those on the bottom pull themselves up. I don’t know why I didn’t get caught, and I don’t know how to fix the system. The scales are not level, but I’ll gladly and thankfully pour myself out to benefit those who are screwed by the system. I wish you the best on your project.