I am a baby boomer who grew up in a middle class neighborhood in a single parent family of relatively limited means. As a white male, my “indiscretions” did not result in a criminal record— a record that in all likelihood could have prevented my career in the health field. Growing up in a relatively privileged community, there was a much higher tolerance for minor offenses; entry into the juvenile justice system was reserved for repetitious or serious offenses.
Now, I work in community health facilities with persons of color (many of whom are impoverished and caught in an environment where walking on the street makes one subject to police scrutiny, which all too often leads to involvement in the criminal justice system–complete with records and frequently harsher punishment for even minor behaviors). This project made me reflect on my own past and I can only consider myself very lucky to not get “caught.”
I applaud your work, as it shines light on our biased system that stigmatizes person who have been “caught.” I cannot think of a single person in my social circle that has not committed a criminal offense but only a few that have been registered in the criminal justice system. I think we live with an “us” (no record) versus “them” (with record) mentality that fosters a unnecessary divide with severe consequences for many unfortunate individuals.