• Hello.

    In the last several months, I have received multiple anonymous notes from people suffering under the stigma of a criminal record or the accusations of criminal activity. Some have said they are dependent upon substances, several have said they wish they had access to help.

    Each has mentioned suicide.

    To those who have written me:

    Thank you for reaching out. Talking about suicide and self-harm takes bravery; recovery is impossible to do alone. I imagine you feel this is too hard, I imagine you feel like you're being swallowed whole. You've told me that you've been told you're worthless, that you feel hopeless. Criminal records, comments from family members, dismissals from medical or legal professionals, and comments from classmates, coworkers, or prospective employers may make you feel unable to truly live in the present, much less dream of a future.

    You are not alone.

    You are not your past.

    Know that there are people in this world who rise everyday to fight for you. To end the War on Drugs; to decriminalize mental illness; to increase and support community-based, effective and affordable mental healthcare; to create second--and first--chances for millions of people burdened by criminal records; to empower you to regain control of your life.

    We may not know each other, but you matter to us. We need you in this world.

    Thank you for reaching out. Don't stop reaching out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.237.TALK(8255); visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/international.aspx for help outside of the US.

    And never, ever give up.

    -emily.

    —you are not alone
  • What's your story?  

    Spend some time thinking about it.

    Sit by yourself.

    Think of college. High school. Middle school.

    Think about a time when you were drunk, or young, or stupid, or rebelling, or exploring, or angry, or in a bad relationship, or hanging out with the wrong crowd. Think of a time when no one was looking, or when they really should have paid you more, or when it wasn’t your idea anyway.

    Think of the time no one got hurt, so it shouldn’t count.

    Or when you gave it back anyway.

    Or when they didn’t even miss it.

    Or when it was just once.

    Or when everyone else was doing it.

    Or when you felt like you had no choice.

    Think of how your life would be different had you been caught.

    Had you been labeled an addict, or an assailant, or a fraud, or a thief.

    So, what's your story?

    We’ll post your comments and contributions over the next few weeks. Read a few of the others’ stories, and maybe you’ll remember some more of your own.

    This project depends upon participants—their humor, humility, and generosity.

     

    Finally--we'd love to hear your thoughts not the project. Did it change the way you think about crime, criminal records, and second chances? Tell us about what's being done to challenge the narrative and disrupt the "clean v. criminal" dichotomy in your community!

     

    Thank you.

    —What’s your story?
  • I started drinking alcohol when I was around 13: I stole some bottles of wine from my parents and got drunk with a friend. Then around that time, and later when I was 14 – 18, we would ride our bikes, then later drive to a near-by convenience stores and steal various forms tobacco, alcohol, and perhaps a few other odds and ends shop-lifted. In addition, I would just buy alcohol underage and then barely of age, and would drive drunk and/or high. Around the age of 15-16 I was getting into the medicine cabinet of my parents (and others), find and take-steal Seconal, Percodan, Valium, Ativan, Forte, etc., all sorts of Rx pills, and of course drive high. I had been pulled over while impaired, 16 – 19, and never had any real entanglements with law enforcement, well, other than being hauled in with hundreds of others for public intoxication at a public concert when 19. By the time I was 18, almost graduated from High School, I started to smoke pot. All that, I never felt bad about anything I was doing, as all my friends were doing this too so it seemed normal, and was what we were supposed to do, so I thought. Also towards the end of that time frame, 19, I had stolen money from a girlfriend's parents. Out of all the terrible, stupid, and irresponsible things that I had done up to that point, namely stealing or illegally acquiring tobacco, alcohol, pills and some pot, drunk driving, breaking into places to have a make-shift party, this one really has bothered me, now for a lifetime. It seemingly wasn’t much, maybe a total of $100 - $200 tops; I pilfered $20 here and there over time, but it was theft of money none the less, and from fine, good, warm, loving and outstanding people who did not deserve my depravity as a thief. Later, as I went off to college, I continued the party of consumption of alcohol and drugs and make a mess of my education. Before I graduated from the college, I was hired into a real job, though low paying, it was an entry level ‘good’ job. I finished school somewhat. I had money to buy alcohol regularly, and did, I was 21. From age 21 – 30, I have held a small number of good jobs, job hopped very little, and increased my wealth some, and consumption of alcohol, and occasional pill use, pot smoking, and of course quite a lot of drunk driving. I thought I controlled it all exceedingly well most the time. I never really stole anything anymore, namely that money, as stealing ‘that’ money really had a bad effect on me, and ever since I’ve wished I had never done such a thing. There is something about stealing alcohol or tobacco, but money, that’s different a whole other ball game. At around 28, I married, and had a step-son, was married for 16 years, and watched the step-son do much of all the things I did wrong and am regretful for as well. Divorced now over 10 years. Alcohol and drugs playing a negative role in my marriage, however, I had married a narcissist, liar, thief, financial fraud, and cheater, I got my own handed back to me. I think people refer to this as Karma. Now I no longer drink, nor use drugs, as my previous life with them only served to destroy my mental and physical health, as well as not one good thing came to me while plastered, but plenty of bad news did. I have had gone back to school, earned my degree, and changed jobs, do what I love, get paid well, and have an awesome fulfilling life. As I reflect upon where I am today, and what I have achieved, along with what all I’ve been through, I can’t address all the positive things only, without addressing those negative things as they helped shaped my journey too, plus not getting caught for or while performing many acts of horrendous bad decision making. None of it would have been possible if the family I stole money from had called the police, and/or made some sort of an issue of it. Or if I had I gotten in bigger trouble if the police who let me go when pulled over for drunk driving in my teens and early 20’s. The fact is, I’m just plain lucky that I was never caught, never caught stealing, driving drunk, never caught buying, selling or taking drugs, or just simply never caught doing something incredibly dumb. I most certainly have a boat-load of deep regrets that I carry around like an anchor. I would like to think that I never got caught because I’m so slick, smarter than the average bear. Perhaps because I’m white, privileged, of a wealthy family, or have some special power, or dirty pictures of the towns’ mayor. None of that is the case. This is, in my opinion, a typical story in the life of an American male. If I can in-part anything, do not steal money. For me to rectify this past grievance, the theft of money, I had sent expensive flowers to the family upon the death of a family member. I was my way of paying it back, the illegal debt I one had created. I have dug deep into my past as to why did I do these things, starting off with drugs and alcohol as a young kid. Why I stole money in my late teens. Why a life of drugs and alcohol that did nothing positive but plenty of negative to my physical and mental health. I grew up with something that is very hard to explain to others, but suffice to say, it was a parent. A parent that has deep serious mental issues, over the top strange and weird, at least three different personality disorders that can be identified. Someone so repellent that when others see that person coming, they do a 180 on one heal, and run, not walk in the other direction. It is this that can have a profound negative impact on a child. A child that can turn to drugs, alcohol, even make such terrible decisions as to steal, steal money, tobacco, drugs, alcohol, shoplift, shoplift things that don’t need, drive drunk, and do other great acts of stupidity that I still deeply regret. These drugs and alcohol bought and stolen, were used to self-medicate the pain that parent brought to me. If I was ever caught, police and lawyers would not being using such a defense as the guy’s mother was a “Crazy Bitch” and really crappy. It would be just stick it to him, they're doing their job, and the rule book says dispense this-and-that for so-and-so a crime. Sadly, this is the case behind why many have done much of what I have in their past, a terrible parent, and it’s near impossible for many to come to grips with that reality or tell their story. I own every mistake, every bad decision, and every single error of bad judgement I have ever committed since I have able to form and recall what people refer to as memory. With a wide assortment of tools available to you today, mend your errant ways. I did. So must you. It will set you free. Your life will change for the better in every detail that you have ever known. Do not carry the wreath of shame around your neck that was created by a parent, you are your own person, with your own thoughts and opinions, who matters and has impact. Think thrice before you steal anything, or consume drugs and/or alcohol, and ask yourself if you’re self-medicating.
    —thrice
  • indecent exposure -possession of weed (was an addict for awhile...and I'm still using more than I should) -distribution of weed -DUI/DWI -possession of controlled substance (tried meth once against my wishes...used Xanax regularly and illegally, but I wasn't an addict...and I never bought it ;)...it definitely helped me get to sleep at night for awhile) -public drunkenness -soliciting a prostitute (did this when I didn't want to be gay...and then a couple more times because I had fun the first time...I then did this a couple of times more after a breakup and it's been 3 years since) -petty theft (from a grocery store during less fortunate days...) -probably trespassing...I'm sure I've walked on something I shouldn't have walked on... However, I do have an arrest record for assault & battery DV, which I got after I called 911 on someone...The irony of life is that I have an arrest record for something I didn't do while I don't have a record for any of the things I actually did. I am currently a PhD student in chemistry...and I still toke.
    —and i still toke
  • I have been pulled over many times for moving and non-moving violations for many years. I'm white, and anytime I'm pulled over by a black police officer, they let me off the hook with a verbal or written warning, never a fine or worse. Traffic violations are not the only time I have met the police. There were several other instances, mostly when I was in HS or College: every time it was a black police officer, I was let off the hook with a warning only when it could have been drunk driving, or minor in possession of alcohol, or possession of a controlled substance. They could have hauled me off to jail, slammed me with a bunch of charges, all of which I was complete guilty about, but no. Today, anytime I get pulled over or have to interface with the police, this white guy hopes that they are black, I have a great batting record with black cops, they're awesome.
    —white and pulled over
  • My older brother bullied me, so I bullied the girl at school. Sorry, Angela. I didn't mean to hurt you.
    —bully
  • I still feel very embarrassed and very guilty. I was in high school and supporting myself, living in my own apartment with older people and commuting to school and working full time. A mentally challenged individual wanted to "see my boobs"; I finally said ok, took all his money ($14 in singles in 1971), and flashed him. He complained it wasn't a long enough flash, so I did another quick flash. Then he complained to a lot of people I knew and I had to lie and pretend I didn't do it because I was so embarrassed, but they knew I was guilty and looked at me as the dog I was. I can never tell a soul about this awful behavior, and thus can never get forgiveness.
    —mentally challenged
  • Sexual indiscretions in my 20s and 30s. I never set out to hurt anyone and pray that I didn't. Maybe I'll have the courage to write more some day. People are nowadays arrested and jailed for what I did 45 years ago. I'm still too guilty and frightened to tell you more. I'm a woman.
    —still too frightened
  • In high school and shortly after, I made some poor decisions. But that was in the 80's when police officers just talked with you and no charges were filed leading to a devestating criminal record. I was underage drinking, shoplifting, stealing, selling pot, and using fake ID's. Fortunately, I grew out of that to put myself through college and earned a Master's degree. If I had a criminal record from that, I would never have been able to serve in my current position helping others as a social worker. I have been able to make peace with my poor decisions by realizing that my brain wasn't fully developed. But today's justice system doesn't recognize this and still one ends up with a criminal record. I have seen the long lasting and debilitating affects this has on a person economically, personally, and socially. This needs to change.
    —this needs to change
  • I grew up in a wealthy part of the bay area. My father, although extremely wealthy and willing to share his money with his offspring, was never present. He was too busy cheating on his current wife and finding a new model to become stepmom #13 (mild exaggeration). He was extremely informed on everything that was going on in my life, not because he asked me, but because he had cameras, microphones, and tracking devises all over our house, my room, my car, and my phone. A lot of my depression and anxiety stemmed from the relationship I had with him.

    My criminal career began at 13. In 7th grade, my friends and I found out how to break into an elementary school classroom. We would sneak out at night in the summer and hang out there.

    In 8th grade, I started smoking weed. I also sent a boy a naked picture of myself, which ended up circulating my school.

    My freshmen year of high school, I started partying a lot. I would get black-out drunk. One time, I was so drunk that after I got dropped off at my house by a friend, I stumbled my way to a busy street and tried to hitch-hike to another party.

    My sophomore year of high school, I started smoking weed again. Up until the beginning of my senior year of high school, I did it almost every day. I have driven drunk and high on numerous occasions.

    During my junior year, I started doing a lot of cocaine. My friends and I would constantly bring our weed, bongs, and coke onto public property, and sometimes even do it in the back yard of random luxurious houses. I stopped going to school for awhile and planned to drop out.

    I am only 18 now, but when I was 17, I decided on my own to get sober. I stopped drinking and using all drugs. I started going back to school and actually ended up graduating high school early. I moved to a different state on my own and started college 6 months early. I plan to become a prison counselor and hopefully help with the reintegration process. I have already gotten offers for internships and tours of prisons and their mental health departments. No matter what the circumstance, I believe everyone commits crime because of some sort of pain they're suffering. Everyone deserves a chance at redemption. 🙂

    —stepmom #13
  • I got all dressed up in my cutest clothes and went to the bars because I knew He would be there-- the cute, oh so smart boy I'd had a crush on for over a year. I found out that night that he had a crush, too-- on my best friend.

    So I got drunk. Very, very drunk. Then, walking home to my sorority house, I took out my anger on the window of the chemistry lab. Glass shattered, alarms went off, and the campus cops arrived. I think I ran, but was quickly caught.

    As I sobered up in a cold jail cell, some Assistant State's Attorney looked at my case...and miraculously decided not to charge it. I rode the bus home, ashamed, embarrassed, but with my future still intact.

    Six years later, I returned to that college town as a public defender, where I could help others with their stupid decisions. Today, I have a job I love, a beautiful house in a nice part of town, and I can afford to send my kids to private school. All because my case never became a case, and I never became a statistic.

    —not a statistic
  • I do not know what came over me, but my 2 friends (one was my best friend at the time) and myself decided to just break into a house for no reason. I was going through a phase and my friends peer-pressured me. I feel sorry for what I did and helped the owners of the house afterwards (mowing, cleaning,and such). However, I still feel terrible for doing it because, I know if I do it again I won't be caught.
    —won’t get caught.
  • As much as a regret this, in high school I would sell weed and various other illegal drugs leaving everything in my car. I was always scared of getting robbed so I would also keep a concealed fire arm in the car. One day I was on a back road at a stop sign when someone who must've been in a hurry who had been tailgating me for a good mile or two slams on the horn because I was "making them late by stopping at a stop sign." I was having a bad day and got a bit too cocky. I let my rage of the day get ahold of me, grabbed the firearm and held it out the window in plain view of the driver behind me. They immediately reversed and pulled away as fast as I've ever seen. I was never apprehended for my action and I still regret it to this day. Now a days the only illegal activity i take part in is toking on a joint every week or so.
    —road rage
  • I have shoplifted over $2000. I'm only 14. I imagine I haven't been caught because no one suspects a well-dressed Chinese person in a rich town.
    —richtown
  • I smoked pot. Maybe still do. Who hasn't?
    —still do
  • i have watched porn and have made bad decisions.
    —porn
  • One day my friend threw a rock at car parked in someone's backyard, breaking a window; I was there too, helping out. The next day, we returned. I jumped and kicked the windshield till it cracked. The third day, I had barely kicked it when I noticed a woman recording us. We freaked out and ran away.
    —vandalism
  • I once blew up a mailbox for fun. We lived in the country, and I was bored. A few years later, my little brother did the same thing -- but he was caught. He's still living at home, and I work in human service now. I don't think he'd be where he's at if he hadn't been caught, and I'm sure I wouldn't be.

    —mailbox
  • When I was 16 I viewed child porn a couple of times. I regret it a lot and I beat myself up everyday about it... If I could I would take it back.

    —regret it every day
  • Cops used to buy drugs for me. That was the 70s, though; life is different now.

    —cops buying drugs
  • i had a fake ID - and used someone else's birth certificate to get it

    i shoplifted - was caught once - but many times not

    when i was really young I put an M80 (or two) in a mail box - don't know what we were thinking

    smoke bombs in classrooms and restaurants - all in the spirit of fun

    I was privileged and it never caught up with me; even the times that I was caught I was given a mild slap on the wrist because of how I looked, my background, how I responded.

    Today even a kid like me might get a harsher punishment but I'm sure a kid with less privilege would end up in jail and on a fraught path... down the rabbit hole of injustice with ever decreasing options.

    —fake ids
  • I went through a phase of pedophilia and possessed child porn when I was 14-15 (it was a very confused time of my life). Smoked pot. Driven unlicensed and under influence of pot. Stolen ciggies and drank under age. Broken into places. Built guns and took prescription pills recreationally. My teens were a very unstable time. Feel I have grown a lot in the last coupla years, but it all still hangs over my head. Still feel disgust at myself often. But at least I'm normal. Relatively.

    —relatively normal
  • I've stolen so much (like maybe $1000 worth of stuff at malls and different stores) and I'm so not proud of it. It wasn't like me to do it, either. I was hanging out with the wrong people and I was going through a rough time with family issues. Honestly, it was a distraction. I haven't stolen in a long time and I have no intentions of stealing again: I feel terrible.

    I got caught once at superstore and officially learnt my lesson. I found better ways of letting off steam and all. I've turned to my art.

    My issue now is that every time I go out I feel like I'm gonna get in trouble. What if they looked at video cameras and stuff? I dunno what to do.

    I'm a better person now. I'll never do it again.

    —I’m scared
  • I tried to steal a £1.50 sandwich from the school caf. I was caught and put into isolation for 4 hours. I am 15 years of age and am wondering whether it will affect me later on in life...

    —stealing in school
  • I was secretary and administrative assistant at a college library back in the 1970s. As a newly-wed, our budget never stretched far enough; so I started taking "temporary loans" from the office petty cash. Sometimes I could repay the full amount, but other times, only half.  When I left the job and we moved out of state, I was still in debt to the petty cash box.  My boss and co-workers apparently never knew.

    Nevertheless, my crime haunted me for decades.

    About 15 years ago, I got an especially large tax refund. I took the amount I remembered owing (about $200), added $100 for interest over the years, and sent the cash anonymously to the college president with a note saying, "for library books that I never returned" — which was not exactly the case, but it provided me with a cover story. I assume the college president forwarded the money to the library.

    Now I sleep much better at night.

    —librarian
  • I stole tools from my neighbor's shed. He was kind of jerk anyway. Now I work at a bank, a job I wouldn't have had I been caught.
    —Kind of a jerk anyway.
  • I have been a prolific shoplifter for half my life. The majority of my wardrobe is stolen goods. I can’t remember ever having paid for a bra, a belt, or a pair of sunglasses. I have never been caught. Moreover, I’ve never even been regarded with suspicion. I’m an attractive, baby-faced white woman.

    I smoked pot daily for close to a decade, first to control anxiety and later to control boredom. At my apex I was smoking multiple times a day, before work, on my lunch break, and before and after evening classes. I managed to graduate at the top of my class, advance and earn accolades within my professional career, and make all the motions of a normal, “straight" existence, all while stoned. No teacher, supervisor, doctor, or co-worker ever called me out on this behavior.

    I wrecked my car once coming back from a party: I fell asleep at the wheel. The officer on the scene shone a light in my eyes and asked why my pupils were dilated. I shrugged. No charges were filed.

    My job requires routine background and criminal record checks. Mine always come back squeaky clean.

    —squeaky clean
  • My teenage years were full of all sorts of crime for which I never got caught. Shoplifting cigarettes on the low end, arson on the high. I abetted stealing a gun. Started playing around with making explosive devices, and of course testing them. And plenty of drug use (acid, amphetamines, and of course pot). Oddly, the drugs chilled me out, and by the time I hit my 20's I have been a reasonably law abiding citizen. I hate to think of the consequences of my actions would be if:

    A) It was a different time, no war on terror, pre-Colombine, etc.

    B) I wasn't a middle class white kid.

    —if i weren’t a middle class white kid
  • I have been able to forget so many things I have done, but not only am I able to forget them, I am able to joke about them!

    In middle school, my friend and I would go to the local grocery store and fill our backpacks with cigarettes, they were right next to the registers! I also got caught stealing from a couple of stores in the mall, but my mom came in, yelled at me and they let her take me home, with no further consequences. I did lose the chance to have my birthday party that night.

    Then in high school, I was terrible. It started with underage smoking, drinking, and selling drugs at school. That later turned into hanging out with a group of friends that was much older than me, we rode around in a van that we all spray painted and it actually said "Please don't pull me over" on the back! We used a lot of drugs, sold drugs out of the van, drove with no licenses, we would drive drunk all the time. Anytime we would get pulled over, the drugs all came to me, because we all knew that the police would be more concerned with whether or not I was kidnapped, I never got searched, and I was the only one that never got in trouble. We called in fake bomb threats, had sex in public places, and stole food all the time to eat. I didn't even need to steal food, I lived in a nice neighborhood, in a very nice house, and we were pretty well off.

    There is so much more and if I would have gotten caught doing half of the things I did I would definitely not be where I am today, I have an Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor's Degree in Human Services, and in less than a year, I will have a Master's Degree in Adult Education - Human Services. I currently work as a case manager in Community Corrections!

    —I currently work as a case manager in Community Corrections!
  • This might take a while...

    Before I turned 18 I had stolen well over $5000 worth of clothes, tools, gasoline, and other random shit. The one time I was caught I wasn't charged with anything despite having over $200 worth of stolen goods. I was on a school trip at the time. I received a three day suspension/vacation.

    After I turned 18 things picked up significantly. While in college I smoked and sold weed nearly everyday. Twice I was caught by cops. They never even asked my name, just told me to toss it. One of those times I was smoking a blunt with my friend on the street. I had both the blunt and the rest of weed (about an oz). My friend got arrested. Guess which of us is white and which is black. I also stole cars regularly, probably over 20 in 4 years. I used them like a rental service, drive and ditch. I also would steal a car late at night and speed by cops to get 'em chasing, then ditch the car across state lines, just for fun. I once transported over 5kilos of coke in my friend's boat. I've been arrested for assault 5 times, never charged. I've pirated almost every form of entertainment for years. I've hacked hundreds if not thousands of private computer networks, usually just for fun. Those are just the ones I can think of while sitting here smoking weed. I'm a small Jewish dude. Cops never even look at me twice. If I looked a little darker, in the neighborhoods I grew up in, I would be spending my life in prison, without a doubt.

    —guess which one of us is black
  • There's so much I've been allowed to forget, or rather that I've been allowed to let disappear.  I was an angry and, looking back on it, mentally ill adolescent.  I came from a truly messed up family and endured a great deal of violence in and out of my home.

    By my adolescence, I was, myself, violent and destructive.  My crimes include vandalism, auto theft, arson, burglary, assault and...  Oh there were so many.  It's a miracle I didn't kill anyone. And that was mainly by luck.

    I was never caught, not that law enforcement didn't have ample opportunity or probable cause. I can only attribute this my race: I'm white.  There was always a reason to warn rather than arrest: I was an honor roll student, it was a phase, sowing wild oats, 'merely a young man who needed guidance' and so on.  I always received the benefit of the doubt while I saw my black and brown (more often than not innocent) peers shouldering the burden of the doubt.

    Guess that's as good an example of white privilege as you can get.  I graduated high school, went to college far, far away, got good grades, got good jobs, and graduate degrees.  In between all this, I also got mental health diagnoses for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and related conditions.  The therapy that ensued eventually helped me become fully functional in society and in private.  Now these memories exist only in short stories and the occasional novel passed off as fiction.

    —an angry young man
  • Back in high school and early college I stole a ton of video games.  And not the high tech way everyone steals video games, music and movies today - by sitting in the comfort of your home and just downloading them.  I walked into video game stores, shoved the games in my jacket (or, if the box was too big, opened the box and shoved the discs, manual and copy protection in my jacket) and walked out.  I did this with music, movies and books, too.  I shoplifted like crazy.  I stole maybe 20 books, 30 tapes and CDs and 40 games.  But worst of all, I managed to steal a giant hard drive (this was the late 80's/early 90's) add-on for my computer - took it off the wall, shoved it in my trench coat and walked right out with it. In all, I probably stole more than $2,000 worth of merchandise.  I definitely got eyed up by security once or twice and the one store I hit the most took all sorts of measures to stop me.  The last time I did it, I changed it up a little - I put the game disc inside my shirt, around my back tucked into my pants.  They stopped me on the way out and told me to open my jacket.  I did and spun around, but they could see nothing.  I acted indignant and left, but I was scared straight - I never did it again.  I think it helped that I was Asian and seemed relatively clean cut and well-dressed, and it was a mall in a fairly upscale area.  I don't think people think of Asians as criminals, generally.  I didn't think of myself as a criminal, while I was doing it.  But looking back, it was crazy.  Now I work in the video game industry, the very industry I was stealing from.  If I had been caught, my life would be completely different now.
    —game industry
  • I was employed in my hometown right after high school and was working in radio broadcasting. Along about the time I turned 20 or 21, I was living with my parents and a new neighbor moved in down the road. I eventually had sex with the neighbor's daughter: she was underage. Statutes being what they are today, I would have been prosecuted as a sex offender. Another time I was very physically abusive to a girlfriend. Neither of these offenses were investigated or prosecuted, and all rationalized by me being 'young, drunk, and impulsive.'
    —sex offense
  • My story is a little different.  My crimes were committed during an unruly pique in my life when I was in my early teens.  I was living at the time in an affluent white middle-class neighborhood.  My crimes were for vandalism, shoplifting, and petty theft.  I was caught, and punished by the juvenile justice system.  My sentence was restitution and community service.  My records were sealed when I became an adult.  Since that time I have committed no crimes (save traffic infractions) and I have never been questioned about my past behaviors.  It has never prevented me from moving on with my life nor has it ever come up in any kind of employment situation.  One among many things I learned and extrapolated from this experience is that a young person’s future and potential are in no way determined by the actions of their youth.  But they can be enormously impacted by the reactions responses of society.
    —caught.
  • All committed before age 21: shoplifting, purchase and use of controlled substances, driving under the influence, stealing money from family and work, under age driving, truancy, curfew violations, underage smoking, smuggling of fireworks into the country, running from police in the middle of the night.

    I would have a completely different life if I was in the school-to-prison pipeline. Some of it was overlooked because I was a really good student. For most of it, I was never caught. If I was Black or grew up in a different neighborhood I'd have been surveilled, caught for at least some of it, labeled a hoodlum, harassed, arrested, written off.

    Now I'm a middle class attorney who hasn't done any of that in decades, and moreover has made so many positive contributions to my friends, family, and community.

    —hoodlum
  • In my junior high years, I was never really a bad kid -- but I did have a thing for stealing my neighbors' alcohol. They left outdoor fridges stocked, and I was smart about taking it. I would zoom in and out. One time I hid tequila in an orange berry Gatorade bottle; it was super convincing. I stole so much -- me and my friends would get drunk at the lake house later on. Never got caught, but it was stupid. However, that's what I did.
    —Orange Berry Gatorade
  • Shoplifting a pair of earrings from a store in the mall before I was 13. I was so freaked out I never did that again. Egged a neighbor's house with a bunch of other girls. The police came by our slumber party to ask about it, and the other girls just told me to keep my mouth shut. I was terrified. In my later teens/early 20s, smoked pot, snorted cocaine, drunk driving--all numerous times. Magic mushrooms, LSD, sex in public, driving an unregistered vehicle, then lying to a police officer. Lots of this stuff while I was going to college and working at Disneyland. Got a college degree, got married, stopped doing everything except occasionally driving drunk. That was years ago. Never got caught for any of it, because I'm an upper middle class white woman. But I see other peoples' lives in complete shambles for doing the same stupid stuff I did.
    —keep your mouth shut
  • In high school, a few friends and I started stealing small things, thinking we were doing our parents a favor by saving a little bit of money here and there. Our family was never anything less than well-off, so the stealing was probably more of a thrill than anything.

    The first time I was caught stealing, I was reprimanded by a store worker. The second time, however, I was brought to the back of the store. A police officer detained me and told me we would be taking "mug shots". I cried and assured him I would never do it again. The police officer called my mom, who came in to reprimand me as well. The police officer told my mother that he was glad I had a positive role model in my life that could steer me in the other direction, and he was "sure it would never happen again". He also assured my mother that we didn't really take any photos, and it would not go on my permanent record.

    I often think about what my life would be like if this encounter went on my record. I often think about what would have happened if my mother could not have come to my aid to show the officer that we come from a "reputable white family, where this type of behavior is not acceptable".

    —reputable
  • I am an attorney and used to work as a government lawyer.  During my college days, I was rather cash-strapped.  I used to go into the supermarket and steal food, sometimes eating it in the store. Really, I had no good reason, other than that I preferred spending my $50 a week after rent on alcohol and the internet (we paid by the megabyte then). I finally got caught and received a stern warning from a shop manager. Had he taken it further, I probably wouldn't be an attorney -- I'd be lucky to be working the register at one of those supermarkets. I still spend too much on the internet -- only it's time now, rather than money, that's the issue...
    —too much time on the internet
  • I have had the luxury to forget so many crimes. The same crimes people are in jail or prison for now.  Are these people "bad"? Am I "good" because I didn't get caught. I have a very good public service job that I love.  What would have happened if I had gotten caught? What would happen if everyone who ever committed a crime who had not been caught for it, showed up at the police stations across the nation and demanded to be arrested for our crimes? To be put in jail with people who had done the same, or lesser crimes? Would things change?
    —What if..
  • I grew up in a very poor neighborhood. Drugs were a way of life, and a lifestyle for many. By the time I reached my teens, I was a regular user of marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, and LSD. This wasn't this long ago...this was in the late '80s and early to mid '90s.

    By the time I was 19, I was in hip-deep. I was selling LSD, Ecstasy (only occasionally, because it wasn't freely available in my state), crack, and marijuana. I was involved with a gang (and I even still have the gang tattoos to prove it, on my forearm), and involved with a lot of stuff I regret. Selling drugs, guns, hiding guns, laundering money...a lot of stuff.

    But I had the luxury of being white. I never got busted.

    The only thing I got busted for was for shoplifting. I got a year of probation and some fines. Yeah, it sucked for me, but I also got to watch what happened to my non-white friends: sentences for murder, drug trafficking, drug sales, carjacking, and a lot of other things.

    And I'm not going to lie: I did a lot of those things too (not murder, though). But I got away...because I'm white. Yeah, I was poor, but I was still white. I got pulled over, once, with a gun underneath the seat. The cop found it, and when he asked me about it, I told him, "Have you looked at this neighborhood? And my skin color? I need that gun."

    He let me go.

    And that's why our justice system needs to be reformed. It needs to be color blind, and the drug war needs to end. I've been clean for 15 years, and have no urge to use drugs...but that doesn't mean I think the drug war is right. The drug war punishes the poor and punishes minorities. You should note that it doesn't punish the majority or the rich.

    Thank you for reading my story.

    —hip-deep
  • So, I am a late 20s college professor, and over the years I have seen students go to jail for crimes I have also committed. I'm white and have lots of degrees.

    In college I smoked pot, like everyone else. I once bought a lot of pot from a friend and then decided I didn't really enjoy smoking, so I sold it to another friend. I also drank while underage, and have driven drunk on occasion.

    I tend to drive with my tag expired for months at a time and almost never get pulled over. If I do I often get a warning or the ticket is waved once I get inspected.

    I once put the tags from my old car onto a new one I bought and got pulled over for speeding a month later. The cop told me that this was very illegal, and they were supposed to arrest me and impound the car. He just told me to fix it soon. Didn't even get a ticket.

    When my wife and I were poor after college we would steal things from stores that we didn't have the money for. Mostly groceries or makeup or other small items. I still steal spices because they are so easy to take and seem very overpriced.

    I didn't take my Oxycontin after I had my wisdom teeth out, so I sold them to a friend for $5 a pill. I had an optional refill for 20 more so I did that and sold them to the same person.

    Any one of these things could have given me a criminal record, and yet I have never even been close to being arrested.

    —consequence-free crime
  • In highschool (and come to think of it, in college), we used to sneak into construction sites. Typically condos coming up on the southside -- monstrosities that were perfect for exploration and transgression. We'd climb to the highest point we could reach -- the second floor, third floor, roof -- and sit smoking and drinking on the wall-less edge, dangling our feet over the pit below.
    —construction
  • When I first got my license, I drove aimlessly for hours and hours and often with a car full of friends. The first time I got a speeding ticket, It was out of stupidity. Literally trying to see how fast my new car could go on a back country road, but I got pulled over minutes later. Then a couple years went by, and I kept getting speeding tickets, I still hadn't learned my lesson.

    Summer of 2013, I got pulled over. I was going 10 over the speed limit (and of course I got a speeding ticket) The cop informed me that my insurance was expired, and told me to simply send proof that I do have valid insurance to the county. I paid the speeding ticket, and also sent in valid insurance the following day of this event. I knew I had to send it in right away, just so I could move on from the incident and not cause anymore damage by not doing so.

    The following summer of 2014, a friend of mine was driving my car, I was in the passenger seat and we were set out to pick up a friend from the airport. As my friend entered the airport area, the speed limit dropped but he was going 5, maybe 10 over the speed limit when we got pulled over. My friend made up some bullshit excuse that he did not realize the speed limit dropped, and OF COURSE he got away free without any speeding ticket. After my friend was in the clear, the cop then proceeded to ask for my license. I handed it over willingly, cause I figured nothing could come from doing so. He went back to his cop car, minutes later he was at my door saying there was a warrant for my arrest, put my in handcuffs and then put me in the back of his cop car. He took my cellphone. I had no idea why this was happening, I had NO CLUE there was a warrant for my arrest. There n was a young girl in the passenger seat, shadowing this officer. I asked her why this was happening, and she ignored me like i was some sort of murderer. The officer was reading my texts and laughing.

    I was brought to the County Jail. My father is a well known entrepreneur; I have lived a VERY sheltered life, I was not prepared to be treated how I was treated in this jail. I was put into a jump suit and placed into a room that was smaller then my arm span. A woman joined me in this room, also in a orange jumpsuit. I was scared shitless being in such a small vicinity with someone who COULD have been in there for a serious crime. Then they took my mug shot, and I sat in a processing room that was filled with women. I was the only white woman there. There was windows that surrounded the processing room, I could look across to where the men were being held. They were pounding on the windows, making sexual actions towards us. I wanted to cry, but I didn't. When I was waiting, there was a young girl who was passed out on the bench. It was her turn to get fingerprinted, and go up stairs to the actual jail cells. The cop was pulling on her and pushing her, as an attempt to wake her up like she was not a worthy human being. All of the woman that were in there were talking about how this was not their first time in jail, they were used to the routine. I had to pee so bad, but the only way I could use the bathroom, would have been on a steel toilet that was in the middle of the room filled with women, and also windows surrounding this room. So I held it. The whole time, I wanted to speak to my mom, ( She is very over protective, and being that I was in jail from 6pm-3am I knew she was scared that I hadn't contacted her within that time period).

    Long story short, I was treated like complete shit in this jail, all because the officer did not write off that I DID MAIL IN MY PROOF OF INSURANCE. They did not write it off, so I was put into this situation. Now I get soooo anxious driving because I worry so much about getting pulled over. Cops literally terrify me. If this nonsense happened to me, it has probably happened to numerous others. It has to stop.

    —someone who was caught
  • As kids we had illegal fireworks. Police caught us a few times: one time they took our firecrackers for themselves; once we were taken to our house and my family was informed. There were no legal repercussions.

    We entered a local lumbar yard after hours.  No damage or theft occurred, but it was still punishable.

    I shipped hashish from Nepal to a friend in the US.  I was never caught.

    I helped smuggle my Irish future-wife back into the U.S. from an unlawful exit for travel overseas.

    Of course I smoked grass while in the 60's.  I've dabbled with various psychedelics.

    I am now a retired Board Certified Emergency Room doctor.  I served the public for 42 years.

    My Medical education was almost 100% supported by government loans.

    Were I caught and punished what would I be now?

    —future-wife
  • I've committed numerous petty thefts throughout my life. The stealing began in middle school, when I would steal cash out of fellow students' bags to fund my binging and purging episodes. But even after recovering from my bulimia, my impulsive urges were as strong as ever, and I began to shoplift.

    I come from an upper middle class white family, where money has never been an issue. I don't steal out of need; I steal because I know that I can. I've never been concerned about getting caught because I know that I could easily talk my way out of it. The sad fact is that because I don't look like a criminal, I wouldn't be treated like a criminal even in situations where people of a different race or social status wouldn't stand a chance. But me? A white, well-educated, upper middle class, twenty-something female? All I would have to do is smile, politely apologize, and claim that it was a simple mistake, and I'd get off scot-free.

    —smile + apologize
  • I am an Assistant Public Defender.  Everyday, I meet clients who are pulled over for minor (or made-up) reasons, have their cars searched, and end up facing drug charges.  In arguing with the prosecutor, I try to point out that mostly the poor and minorities are being pulled over and searched.  Their answer is usually the same: those people are breaking the law!  I try to point out that the problem with this is that mostly EVERYONE is breaking or has broken the law at some point - these people are just being prosecuted.

    This made me think about just how much time I could legally be sentenced to in my State given the penalties for certain crimes (or, so-called "crimes)...

    I have been in possession of marijuana for at least 1200 days of my life.  This is just an estimation based off of how often I have had marijuana - I partake here and there, and have gone years without it at times.  If we just count each separate day I committed this first-degree misdemeanor, that puts me away for 1200 years.

    I have stolen from about 15 hotels, I surmise.  I collect towels, you could say.  This is 15 years, or so.

    I experimented with shoplifting when I was young.  This is 2 years.

    I have stolen prescription medication from family members repeatedly.  This is 10 years.

    I have possessed "trafficking" amounts of pain pills at least 3 times in my life.  This is 90 years in prison - with 9 of those years being mandatory minimum, day-for-day (no reduction or gain time for good behavior) sentences.

    DUI?  I have been so lucky, for I should probably be in jail for 20 years.

    Driving on a suspended license? 10 years.

    I've tried cocaine thrice.  That's another 15 years.

    I've been in possession of "magic mushrooms" at least 10 times.  That's 50 years.

    I've had various other drugs in my life, including possessing alcohol as a minor, that adds at least another 150 years.

    When all is said and done, my maximum exposure, which any judge is free to give, and many in this State do, is at least 1500 years, give or take a century or two.

    —1500 years
  • I am a caucasian woman from a family of means. I committed many, many criminal acts in my youth: shoplifting, selling drugs, buying drugs, fraud, breaking and entering, burglary, forgery, DWI so many times I can't count. Christ, the list goes on... The only time I was caught and punished for anything was for possession; my parents paid a fine and that was it.

    My adventures were hardly the worst I knew of: I was simply trying to keep up with the other kids. Part of the fun of being a privileged white kid is to break the law with impunity (or so I thought). The admiring stories that went around about kids who were pushing the boundaries inspired me to do the same. The wrenching wrongness of what I was doing expressed itself in my gut and my heart, but the lure of danger and the desire to outpace my siblings and friends made it hard to stop.

    Letting go of all that and finding a place for myself within the larger human community has been and continues to be my life's work, and so I felt I needed to contribute a brief version of my story to this excellent effort.

    —Keeping up
  • As a teenager I ran with a street gang. We sold and consumed drugs, did drive-bys, committed all sorts of assaults.  I mean we really hurt a lot of people. I was arrested twice for multiple offenses. Both my parents worked and had good careers and I had the luxury of them being able to hire a lawyer who was able to get all charges dismissed. I had friends who were not so lucky and they began a path that led them to lives of incarceration and even death. Some of us still keep in touch--we're still friends, after all.

    I had the luxury of putting it all behind me, going to college and now am very successful at my job where I provide internal support for a large Fortune 100 company.  I still have not overcome all my demons, but I know the difference between what really got me to where I am and others that were not so fortunate.

    —Overcoming demons
  • 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.
    —baby boomer
  • It started in high school, the one time I could have been booked for underage drinking-- although I don't think they booked you back then. Having been anti-war made me by default anti-establishment, so I hung with the hippy/flower child, mind-altering-substance users and commune-conjurers. Marijuana was a staple at gatherings. I often had a "toke" or two; dropping LSD, popping mushrooms, and whiffing lines of cocaine were experimental for me. 

    Today, I realize how fortunate I was, and am, on many levels. The consequences of having been caught and prosecuted would have barred me from the career path I was destined for -- requiring licensures in early childhood and family education and early childhood special education and assignments in a number of school districts.
    —Popping pills
  • Everyone thinks I'm the "good girl" - innocent, honest, naive.  I have a good job at a law firm, I'm working on completing my masters in criminology, and am a single mom of 2 very successful children. 

    Very few people know about my past, and those of whom I've chosen to share my stories with, rarely believe me.

    I started shoplifting when I was 12 and by the time I was in High School I was taking my backpack with me into stores I liked and would fill it full of whatever I wanted.

    When I was 13 I started doing every drug I could get ahold of.

    When I was 14 I started having sex in public places, stealing cars, breaking into people's homes, and stealing from the boutique where I worked.

    When I was 15, my friend, my boyfriend and I were arrested for loitering, trespassing, vandalism and breaking curfew.  Thank goodness my friend's dad was a lawyer.

    When I was 16 my boyfriend and I snuck out of our homes and stole a car to go pick up some drugs.  It was about 1:00 in the morning. He was driving, but neither of us were licensed. Because it was so late at night we were speeding through the street and a cop pulled out of a parking lot and flipped on his lights.  My boyfriend decided not to stop and a high speed chase ensued that ended about15 minutes, 7 cop cars and 20 miles down the highway.  Because I wasn't driving, and we didn't have the drugs yet, I did not get put in detention.

    When I was 17 mom had had enough and sent me to live with dad in the south.  There I learned about gangs and older ... married ... men.

    When I was 18 I was doing acid almost every day, rarely went to school, continued to steal from my job, peoples homes, their cars, and any store where I could get away with it. 

    When I was 19, I got pregnant, grew up, got a real job, applied to college, and left my abusive boyfriend. 

    Thank you, Officer, for taking me home that night instead of Juvenile Detention.
    —Never forgetting
  • It was my first time buying weed and I'd gotten it through trails of networking. I asked a good friend, who asked another good friend (who I was just too scared to ask) and he got it from someone in the boys' bathroom. I remember me and "John" crossing the street together while I grabbed the weed from his hand, as if we were going to hold hands. Although it was only half a cig and was destroyed in my book bag, I had drugs on me. The school I went to wasn't the safest so I could've been caught with a dime bag, a crappy cigarette and an artist portfolio in my backpack.
    —Holding hands with John
  • In all my life I never thought that I would be that guy.  I never thought that I would be the one walking in a straight line at 3 a.m.  I never thought this would happen to me.  I mean I don't drink often, or typically much.  I'll hit up a concert and have a few beers once a month or so.  Once in a great while at home I'll have a few drinks.  

    Well, it happened to me.  I drove drunk.  My night started out with only the best of intentions.  I was going to meet a couple of newer friends in a town about half an hour drive from my house.  The goal was to go out have a few beers and crash at one of their places.  As I said the night started with the best of intentions.  A night filled with the best of intentions can turn so quickly into a night of fragmented memories and a morning of shame and regret.

    As the night got going the beers flowed faster and faster.  Once the beers flowed enough the idea of shots somehow sounded like a good idea.  From there all was lost.  I can't tell you much about it as I can only remember bits and pieces.  

    What I can tell you about that night is that it began with the best of intentions and ended with me being filled with an abundance of crushing guilt.  Along with that though, I feel an incredible sense of being the luckiest man alive.  I could have hurt someone.  I could have killed someone.  That is something that I thought that I would never say.  It sickens me to have to say that.  

    So after my ordeal has my opinion of drunk drivers changed?  No.  Absolutely not!  Drunk drivers are scum.  They selfishly place their own short term fun over the safety of anyone and everyone unlucky enough to be caught in their path. I should edit that thought; we selfishly place our own short term fun over the safety of anyone and everyone in our path, because I am now one of them.

    What I have learned is that drinking is not for me.  I used it to be able to get myself to be more sociable on a rare occaision I wanted to go out.  However I lack the ability to adequately gauge how much alcohol can affect my actions.  2 beers might get me to step out of my shell a little bit.  4 might get me a bit loose.  6 turns me into someone I don't recognize, into someone I have always hated.

    So thats my story.  This is the story of a man who up until recently has always lived a safe reserved life who wanted to go out and just let loose a little.  The story ends with that man waking up the next day unable to recognize the man on the other side of the mirror.
    —DWI ‘scum’
  • I routinely sneaked onto the neighboring golf course to ride the carts and swipe the snacks.
    —Golf course
  • I am a white transperson from a working class family. I spent most of my youth struggling with my gender identity and learning disabilities while self medicating with drugs and alcohol. I was fortunate enough to transfer from a state school to an Ivy League college, graduate with honors, and earn a prestigious government scholarship to do research abroad.

    Under 18
    1. Underage drinking
    2. Drug consumption - weed, mushrooms, acid, opium, painkillers
    3. Public intoxication
    4. Trespassing 

    18+
    5. Shoplifting (maybe 2-3 times)
    6. Lying on student financial aid, Masshealth, and food stamps applications so that I could afford to transition and stay in college
    7. Sharing my medication with someone who could not afford ADHD testing and was struggling in school
    8. Weed
    9. Using someone else's ID while underage 
    10. Piracy 
    11. Sex in public places


    I've never done anything in my life to hurt another person but if I had been caught doing the above my ability to dedicate my life to helping other people would be severely circumscribed.
    —White Trans
  • It was a few days before my seventeenth birthday, and I asked a few guys at work what I should do to celebrate (besides the usual). One recommended that I urinate in public: at 16 it was still a juvenile offense in my state, and at 17 you became responsible as an adult. I thought it was a weird suggestion and laughed it off.

    Flash forward to the night before my birthday. I was out walking with some friends, and, in fact, suddenly had to go. I found a somewhat-hidden ditch by the road and had my friend stand watch; there was a girl walking with us, and I made her wait across the road and down a bit. I don't think any cars even drove by, there was never any risk.

    I know the consequences though. The job I'd been working was at my high school. They hire a few current and former students each summer, and the guy who recommended that I misdemean was there because he had dropped out and had a record, and could only get employment where he knew someone.

    His crime: public urination. He was 17.

    —Flash forward
  • Shoplifting and theft since I was a kid, mostly small items, mostly for the rush. I still steal pint glasses from bars. I bought liquor and drank underage, and gave alcohol to minors. I drove drunk...a lot. I've been publicly intoxicated and I would routinely walk out the back door of the bar in college to pee in the parking lot. I smoked pot and used some prescription drugs recreationally.

    I'm a school social worker now. I would never be able to have my job if I had been caught.

    —School social worker now
  • I'm studying to be a social worker. If I had a criminal record I wouldn't be able to get on the course or qualify for the career. In the past I have:

    1. Had sex in public places

    2. smoked weed regularly

    3. pirated movies and music

    4. shoplifted jewellery

    5. bought alcohol underage

    6. used a fake ID

    7. bought alcohol for my brother who is a minor.

    With exception to the piracy, these were done years ago. I often wonder how different my life would be if I'd been caught.

    —Studying to be a social worker
  • As a timid girl with curly hair and on the honor roll, I silently decided to rebel. And I was never caught doing any of these things.

    During junior high, I shoplifted from every store in my town -- sometimes with my mother in the next aisle. Clothing, food, beauty supplies, cigarettes, gifts for my mother. (She still has one gift on display in her living room.)

    High school: vandalized 26 lockers by gluing the dials and keyholes shut. Pulled fire alarms. Once brought alcohol to school in a coffee travel mug. Snuck out with older boy to make out in a car. Vandalized teacher's car worth $3000. Slept with men my mother's age.

    Age 18: multiple occasions driving drunk and high, over a period of four years. Met a dealer in the city and hung at a few parties. Met a hippie boyfriend, drove around for a few weeks in a VW bus with stolen plates, getting high. Sex in public places. Broke into buildings and trespassed. Stole cash a few times from a workplace because I didn't have enough gas money to make it home: I felt intense guilt and paid it back later.

    NOW I remember all this and realize I am normal, great career I have. Then I look at my 15 year old daughter and think OH SHIT! What is she pulling behind MY back!?

    —Behind my back
  • I have sold, used, and transported illicit narcotics for myself and others. It seemed like a quick and easy way to make a lot of cash, but soon after selling I became so scared of getting jumped, I started carrying weapons and becoming violent. So much for the easy life....

    I have also consumed a lot of alcohol despite being under-aged (but never have driven while intoxicated) and I am a habitual smoker and still underage … wow I really am young, reckless and stupid.

    I have had multiple sexual relations with people well over my age (technically illegal but thanks to my gender socially acceptable).

    I have also assaulted a few druggies after they said something to piss me off so it probably is a good thing I don't deal anymore.

    Be careful out there guys.

    —Be careful out there
  • I'm a permanently disabled woman with a college degree but no job. I get SNAP benefits (they aren't enough) and just enough Social Security to keep me in a rent-controlled efficiency apartment. I dress myself from the charity of other people. I haven't had a new pair of shoes in 4 years. And sometimes I get so sick of being poor that when I run out of food stamps, I steal from the supermarket. Maybe I should feel bad... but I don't. The corporation will absorb the loss of an apple. I, on the other hand, have nothing to absorb it with.
    —Food stamps
  • By 11, I was heavily into drinking and drugs. By 16, I was selling drugs and had burglarized a home to support my habit.

    I was living in a group home, and my social worker found out about it. I am white. She gave me a chance others in the home (specifically, those who happened to be born with brown skin) did not often get: avoid Juvenile Detention by going to drug treatment.

    I chose a hospital and slippers over pre-prison. I used my second chance to turn things around, went to college, went to law school, then became a therapist.

    Who knows what I will do next with my life free from prison.

    —Hospital and slippers
  • I've stolen from businesses, popped prescription pills that belonged to somebody else, smoked marijuana, took speed, drank alcohol underage, drove drunk and sometimes stoned as well also while under age, trespassed into abandoned houses and on private land, had sex in public places and probably plenty of other things I don't remember.

    Now I'm 25 and I go out of my way to give handmade meals to the homeless. I help friends recover from drug addiction, eating disorders and sexual abuse. I hold doors open for the elderly, children, women and men. I say please and thank you and I never look down my nose at anybody. I work hard for minimum wages and sometimes struggle for food and a home.

    —Holding doors
  • When I was 13, my friend and I sneaked out of her house and went driving around in a car that a friend of hers had "borrowed" from his step dad. None of us were old enough to legally drive.
    —“borrowed” car
  • My first crime was shoplifting some rolling papers when I was 12 years old. The security and cashier knew my older brother so I was only warned. I never stole from a store again.

    I started smoking pot when I was 12, and over the course of my teens and twenties bought and sold a variety of illicit drugs. I committed arson, me and my best friend catching his back yard on fire when were about 11. I trespassed at a several community pools after hours of operation and at golf courses while participating in underage drinking. I have evaded taxes by working under the table. I have driven on a suspended license and driven without insurance. I've smoked marijuana in foreign countries where it was legal and was actually caught once when in Denmark, but released on my own recognizance. I once worked for a company where I fabricated receipts to be reimbursed for petty cash expenses.

    I am 50 now and although I sound like a recalcitrant criminal, I am respected in my commuity and admired for my integrity and compassion.

    My privilege of whiteness, good looks, and education have facilitated my brazen disregard for rules and law which would have been much more difficult had I been born in another skin or set of circumstances.

    —Rolling papers
  • I am a correctional nurse. I have bought alcohol underage, driven drunk and smoked pot. I often think about this during my work now and feel very lucky: had I ever been caught and come into contact with the law, I might not have been able to become a RN and have my current career. In the blink of an eye life could've turned out very differently for me.

    On the other hand, my husband broke immigration law and was "caught." Our family now faces a severe (and unjust) penalty because of this. I know of many families who broke the same or similar immigration laws and were not caught; those families are not faced with any life-changing penalties. Although it's not "criminal" law, I still feel angry that we must suffer when others who have done the same thing don't.

    Because of this, I can only imagine how some of the people I serve in my job would feel if they knew pieces of my past.

    —Correctional nurse
  • At my first job out of college, I filched the Poptarts at work. And the candy. And the soda. And the rice crackers (hey, I was hungry).
    —poptarts
  • Growing up friends and i formed an informal gang. Rather than attack our peers, we focused on dismantling and challenging systems of oppression - albeit in very immature and at times irrational ways. Some of the activities we performed included (all occurred in the middle of the night from ages 13-18):

    A. Piling an entire neighborhood's lawn furniture onto a single property.

    B. Egging police cars.

    C. Trapping police cars in makeshift roadblocks.

    D. Shooting paintballl guns at said trapped police officers from hills, woods and rooftops.

    E. Joy riding in stolen cars, regularly.

    F. Stealing weapons from homes (guns, tear gas & ammunition) and throwing these items into the local river.

    G. Selling marijuana to peers, co-workers and teachers.

    H. Buying alcohol as minors and distributing it to classmates.

    I. Burning down a track and field.

    J. Breaking into and vandalizing educational facilities run by the state.

    K. Driving over 150MPH on a pubic highway with a speed limit of 55.

    L. Throwing moltov cocktails in roads and fields.

    M. Organizing parties with underage drinking, drugging and sex.

    N. Prank calls.

    O. Pool Hopping.

    P. Not perpetually protesting our government from invading Iraq.

    Q. Not organizing enough people to acutely challenge our government's actions regarding drone killings and unjust warfare.

    R. Driving without a license or insurance.

    S. (This is probably the most serious) As a group, impersonating homeland security agents, flagging down three cars of our peers and forcing them to kneel in wet rain as we "waited for confirmation" from base. What is so strange about this is that our peers were overwhelmingly complacent - too fearful to challenge the oppressive force.

    Now well over a decade later I can examine how our lives were effected/affected by these actions:

    One of us was arrested for stealing guns from a police officer's home. He was given three years probation and a few hours of community service. The entire groups attributes this to the individual's class background (upper-middle) and complexion (white).

    One of us who sold marijuana was arrested twice. He is currently on perpetual probation - the next offense he commits will land him in prison for an extended period. This individual is also of an upper-middle class background, but his complexion is mocha and is thus considered black.

    One of us was arrested for credit card fraud and given 20 hours of community service. This individual is of an upper-middle class background and has a white complexion.

    As for me... Although I was arrested numerous time, I wasn't incarcerated for more than a day at a time. I have been in front of judges throughout my life (public defenders) - yet am always met with a probationary period and a subsequent expungement of the charge(s). I am of an upper-middle class background, have a white complexion and understand the cultural accouterments, such as language, body and verbal, which allow me to traverse the legal system with greater ease. As I grew, undoubtedly a result of all of the above, I was able to come to terms with my own oppression and that of others. Although graduated high school with barley a D average, I was given a scholarship to a city-community college where I excelled via a liberatory pedagogy. Now I am a full-time student at an ivy league school on a full academic scholarship which is supplemented by extensive grants from the state and federal government. In short, I am able to work part-time, attend school and maintain a low-cost living.

    So I am at a strange moment here: I was able to grow and mature as a result of the crimes I committed. Had I never committed these crimes I may not have opened myself up to the overwhelming empathy I now feel which fuels my drive to complete a PHD, on my own terms via a liberatory pedagogy. Yet had I not been offered diversion programs for these crimes my chances to utilize my inherent capacity to learn and teach may have been stifled - and I may have never known my true potential.

    —A to Z
  • I taught university classes from 1981-2001.  In 1985, they raised the drinking age and many institutions banned alcohol from campus.  Of course there was student drinking on the sly.

    But I would have end-of-term parties for my classes.  I'd bring chips, cookies, soda and juice--and a little something to spike the soda and juice.  Originally I'd bring wine, as that was traditional, but as things became more repressive, I switched to vodka or rum.

    These were joyous events and the students loved them.  I never heard any complaint, as they were mostly genteel affairs, with no one getting really drunk.  Needless to say, I did not ask for ID or make any attempt to restrict access.  Some of my students were certainly under 21.  I had a distinct political opposition to the drinking age laws and thought of this as civil disobedience.

    I did this for 25 years, until an unsympathetic colleague found out and proceeded to get me fired. My years of experience and degree allowed me to find work again fairly quickly.  I'm pretty sure that if I'd been caught earlier, I might have not have had a teaching career.  "Non, je ne regrette rien."

    —Non, je ne regrette rien
  • When I was a sophomore in college I was walking back from a dance and saw a 8ft by 5ft poster of the swimming and diving team. I had passed it dozens of times, always thinking how cool it would look in my room. This time it had fallen off the wall, so I wrapped it up and put it in my dorm room. I later found out it had cost over $500 dollars. I never really thought about how it affected the people I took it from. I just knew I wanted it.
    —Swim poster
  • In high school, some of my friends used to joke that I was "the pharmacist." I've sold small amounts of weed, acid, and E. In fact, whenever I wanted to do drugs, I'd buy in bulk and sell what I didn't want to friends and friends of friends to make a profit. This sometimes included more addictive drugs. I've done all the "standard" drugs I can think of besides heroin.
    I've driven drunk several times, sometimes when I knew that I was not even remotely capable of driving well. I've driven while having an acid trip; I've driven after smoking marijuana, although it does seem to make me more aware and cautious. I'm extremely lucky to not have hurt anyone and the thought of this happening has made me stop doing this. Before getting into my first highway accident (weather-related and I didn't hit anyone, luckily) I often drove the maximum speed my car was capable of, around 120 mph. I've made some money off of shoplifting. Anything in my wardrobe that wasn't a gift or second-hand is stolen. Many of my household items are stolen. Books. Food. I had tools for this purpose. The "worst" was a single item worth around seven grand. This is not terribly outrageous, I guess. I made it a "rule" to never steal from a place that wasn't a (corporate fat cat) chain store, but I once broke this rule and it's the only crime I've ever felt guilty about committing, I think.
    —The pharmacist
  • I committed identity theft and got a school loan for $20,000. I didn't need to pay it back. It cost someone their house. I spent the money on drugs and booze and returned home to a girlfriend who cheated on me a dozen times.
    —School loan
  • At the age of 18 I had sex with a minor. I do not have a criminal record. My now husband, at the age of 18 also had sex with a minor and now has a felony and is required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. It was the same act. All four of us were consenting, horny teens.
    —Consenting, horny teens
  • I worked briefly at a homeless shelter. I was paid a living wage, but barely. I had access to the basement where all the household donations were stored. I took everything from blankets to soap to clothing. I justified it in my mind, but now, over a decade later, I still feel guilty. Many if the things I still have -- a blanket, a coat.
    —Homeless shelter
  • I am not sure in what order these happened or when, but here they are: 

    I have stolen money from people at parties when they were off drinking or having fun. I sexually abused a younger child when I was about eight. I have purchased marijuana, smoked it, and even helped my family sort it for sale. I have taken mushrooms. I have shoplifted in my childhood and I still think about doing it. I have stolen from my jobs. I have had sex for drugs and I have blackmailed exes. I have downloaded music and movies. Underage drinking, public urination, skinny dipping in a public park pool and skinny dipping in a public lake. There are so many more things, and the thing is: I barely (if at all) feel guilt.
    —Here they are
  • If swapping pain meds counts, then count me in.
    —Pain meds
  • In 1969 or 1970 I was very depressed and decided to jump off a bridge. After having a few drinks I was in an odd state of mind, and decided I could as an alternative rob a bank on the corner nearby. I proceeded to do so ("I have nitroglycerin in my pocket") and walked out with a few hundred dollars; I was nabbed a half block away in men's room of a bar. Long story short, I was assigned a federal public defender and the charges were ultimately dropped: non compos mentis. 
    —Bank robber
  • I was in my mid to late 20s and was working as a teacher in the local juvenile hall. My students in the late 60s to early 70s were mostly incarcerated due to beyond parental control, arson, drug use - mostly victimless crimes. In my free time, I was a heavy social drinker and one night, I drove home alone in a very inebriated state. For whatever reason, I did not cause an accident or harm anyone and I was not stopped by the police. I may have done this another time but cannot remember. This was a serious crime!!
    —Drunk driving in the 60s
  • When I was in high school, my friend and I would fill our tanks with gas and drive off without paying. Eventually they began writing down license plates, so we started switching out plates. When a police officer finally came to my house to inquire about it, I told him that the vehicle description did not match the plates. He apologized. We stopped shortly after.  

    I now work with youth, and am often reminded of all the things I used to do out of necessity.

    —Gasoline Theft
  • I was a shoplifter when I was in middle school. Almost entirely small stuff -- paperbacks, cassettes, nail polish. I gave it up because I realized how embarrassing getting caught would be.

    I'm 35 now, and I still sometimes think about sliding something small into my pocket and walking out of the store. 

    I've pirated pretty much every form of media; smoked pot; bought alcohol underaged; and probably technically driven drunk, though never so far over the limit that I felt unsafe. Oh, and -- at her request -- we don't pay taxes for our part-time nanny. Oops.

    —Shoplifting, piracy, tax evasion
  • I work in law enforcement, but in my past have committed several severe crimes: traveled internationally with someone else's passport; forged signatures; didn't declare extra ordinary profits in my tax returns; used illicit drugs; lied under oath. With the exception of one person whose money I withdrew from the bank, I feel that I never really harmed anyone.

    —Traveling With a Fraudulent Passport
  • I had always abided by the rules as a kid, my mom was pretty strict on that kind of stuff. The summer before my Junior year of high school (when I was 15 going on 16), I asked a volleyball teammate to get me in to some parties. I was ready to do something exciting and rebellious for once. A few weeks later I smoked weed for the first time; after that I started dating a college guy who I would smoke with about once a week for like two months. When we broke up I smoked a few more times then quit. Now, I just drink with my friends (we're all underage).

    I've peed outside at parties, been drunk at 2:00 am and in public at our local McDonald's and again at a country concert last summer. I steal packaged fruit from work just about every time I go in and once stole fake glasses from the mall because I really liked how they looked on me. Me and my friends also whipped out a bottle of vodka on the highway one day after our afternoon volleyball practice; I've rode in the car without a seatbelt numerous times. I've trespassed a few places where all the "cool" kids go (including two supposedly haunted nearby train tunnels). I guess you could say public indecency if you wanna count having sex in the back of my ex's truck in the middle of his grandpa's backyard -- in view of the hotel.
    Now, I'm getting through my first year of college -- so I'm sure there will be more to add later.

    —Possession and Use of Marijuana; Underage Drinking; Public Urination; Theft
  • I got my first job when I was in high school. At first, I loved it. But, as I worked longer and longer, I came to realize that the people I worked with were actually horrible. They made it seem like my fault when I asked to have off when my grandmother passed away, and they "lost my schedule request" when I requested off for an academic competition. So, I got fed up with them. As a joke, I wrote a bomb threat saying that there was an explosive device in the mall, and that whoever found the note had a choice to make: to be a hero, or to leave it be so that the blood of the innocent was on his hands. Keep in mind, there was no bomb. I would never actually build and detonate an explosive device.

    Fast forward five years, and I got caught up in the world of drugs. I only used marijuana occasionally, but I had access to pills, which means that I had the ability to sell them. So, I found a strong version of Advil and switched them out for my mom's Hydrocodone. I also took my mom's Oxycodone, along with two other muscle relaxers, and I sold them to a friend of mine (who was no longer able to smoke weed because his parents found his grinder). My mom did not use these pills: she had them from prior bouts with kidney stones, but for some reason held onto them. I decided that I would sell them both to make a decent chunk of change and to help a friend out who could no longer enjoy the magical ganj.

    —Teenager: Anonymous Bomb Threat and Distribution of Narcotics
  • I am a middle aged white woman, born and raised in a town of 800 people. I have degrees in social work and pastoral ministry. I have done church and human service work all of my adult life. But I am a criminal. I have driven drunk numerous times and either never been caught or have been sent home because the town cop knew my parents. I have stolen many things, starting with money from a ballpark concession stand I worked at in the summer. I have done illegal drugs, trespassed, driven without a proper license, and provided beer to minors.

    —My story
  • If I had been caught and convicted of my crimes, my goal of becoming a juvenile probation officer would be unobtainable. Throughout high school my best friend would steal clothes whenever she wanted new things and when eventually I adopted that lifestyle, I was able to save my money for a car. I stole my entire wardrobe during my sophomore and junior years of high school and it wasn't until an alarm went off in one of the stores that I stopped. It scared me too much to ever steal again (even though I was not caught during that incident).

    Also in high school I would drag race daily because my school was right off the highway. I would win every time topping out at 115 mph because I knew my friends were too scared to ever keep up. I took pride in being the one that could always beat the guys. Now in college I occasionally underage drink, drive with alcohol in the car, and smoke marijuana -- which is the norm here. I don't consider myself a criminal but looking at people with theft convictions I tend not to trust them. Definitely a double standard.

    —My crimes
  • As a kid (15-16) before I had my license my step mom had a Saab that had a top speed of 137 on a clear day. I had a friend who was a few years older than me and he sold cocaine at our school. My friend didn't have a license or a way to get a car so we would take my step mom's car and drive down the highway, going a minimum of 95 miles an hour of course, from one town to the next to buy cocaine from this dealer downtown. We did this at least two times a week. I still wonder if they noticed the gas was low?

    —How did I not go to jail?
  • In the 1970s, when I was in my 20s, I was seriously committed to campaigns to make world trade more fair for people at the bottom. My friends and I started one of the first fair trade campaigns. I learned a lot about how corporations make money while screwing small producers and consumers. Living on very little, I decided it was quite fair for me to steal from big corporations: the stealing was helping me earn my living as a hippie carpenter. I stole some hand tools from a big chain builder's merchant. I also stole some books from a college bookstore. Some years later I felt remorse about the books: the bookstore was a local institution, even if owned by a conglomerate, so I went and paid some money back to the store, and fessed up. But I didn't ever pay back for the tools. I did decide I wouldn't steal again, even though my view of corporations had not changed. I didn't want to risk arrest and prison, but I also decided that trust was an important glue for society and "liberating" stuff for my personal welfare, however dedicated I might be to good causes, didn't justify destroying the fragile culture of honesty and trust between citizens, even if some of them were employed by evil giants. Nowadays I work with people in prison, helping them work out how to heal from whatever traumas and harms contributed to them committing their crimes.

    —Hippie Carpenter
  • Well, when I was a kid (about 6 or 7 years old) I'd go to the supermarket with my mum. While she'd be looking for the things we needed I'd go to the sweet's aisle and eat a few chewing gums. They had really tasty chewing gums that were sold in packages that looked like cigarette packages. My mum disapproved of that so I wouldn't get them otherwise. But actually it wasn't really about the gums. It was about "the kicks" and I think I felt superior to these adults that were so strict about those sweets but would never catch me. I'd do this alone and also with my younger brother. Just chew the gums a few times then throw them away again. A bit later (I think I was about 14) I also stole pens from the paper store. Mostly I would take pens that I had bought previously and that were broken with me to the store, I'd put them back and take new ones in their stead. I think that made me feel less like a thief but well, it actually was theft. I mostly feel bad about this because I didn't even take care not to ruin these pens because I knew if they were broken, I'd go and "return" them.

    I stopped these things because I felt bad about them. I also imagined how maybe a shop assistant would get blamed for this and that I'd be responsible for them losing their job or something like that.

    And that's the story of how I was a shoplifter as a kid.

    —The Kicks
  • In April of 1986, my new lover and I climbed into his orange Toyota and spent the next year and a half traveling around the US, mostly camping in national forests and backpacking in the wilderness, heading into towns when we ran out of ice and chocolate.  We did the same in '91-92.  Only problem was, we were both guys and sex between men was still a felony in many states.  We figure we committed loving felonies in most of those.

    —Felony Sexual Conduct
  • More than three decades ago, my best friend in high school approached me about marrying his aunt. I was 20, and she was a decade older and had four kids and needed to flee from an abusive marriage in the Philippines. She came on a tourist visa, and we went to a sleazy drive-through marriage business and it was done. I occasionally slept at her place so that I wouldn't commit perjury during the interview, although we didn't sleep together. I did not receive any payment, but she provided me with health and dental insurance through her employment. It was immigration fraud - we had no intent to build a life together, and got divorced once she had her green card.

    In high school, some friends and I went to Mexico. One of my friends, unbeknownst to me, was an illegal alien. He came to the US when he was a baby, but his family drifted about after WWII and his mom somehow never obtained status. I guess that because he was white and seemed completely American, we all thought there would be no problem. Well, we got an object lesson in privilege when the immigration inspector denied him entry. We walked a few miles east and jumped the fence.

    I recognize that immigration enforcement is a necessity, but I don't think kids who grow up here should be locked up and deported.

    I work in international development now. My life is good. It probably wouldn't be had I been busted for immigration fraud. I cross a lot of borders these days, always legally. I sometimes look around in the airport and wonder whether anyone's traveling on false papers or pretenses. I silently hope, if they are doing so out of fear or desperation, that they make it through.

    —Immigration Fraud
  • In college I would stop at the textbook store several times per week and I would steal one of the more expensive class textbooks.  Eventually I had a closet full of books.  I gave a group of my unscrupulous friends a 25% cut to stand in line several times and sell them back to the store at the end of each semester.  I made thousands of dollars, financed a lavish lifestyle for an unemployed student, financed a pricey weekend getaway to Chicago, and returned home for the summer with $1500 cash.  If caught, I could have been charged with a felony due to the value of the theft.

    —Textbooks
  • 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.

    —Moral Compass
  • "Streaking" topless in the 1970s; engaged in a physical fighting match with my adult daughter; stole cigarettes from various people when I still smoked; during the long cold winter three years back, I side-swiped several cars, breaking off their side mirrors and leaving the scene of the "accidents;" stole items from the lost and found at work, then denied it.

    —Streaking
  • I am a lawyer in the criminal justice system. I see people every day who, once the system is done with them, will be unable to get jobs or housing, and will be viewed by society as untrustworthy and dangerous. All the while, I know that I've done the same or worse things than what most of them are being convicted of.

    I was a straight-A student in high school and college, in a white suburb. My friends and I didn't commit crimes, we were "mischievous." (This is sarcasm.) We were smart, we were bored, and we spent many nights seeing what we could get away with.

    We shoplifted, often from stores that we worked at, and gave each other improper employee discounts. We trespassed in construction sites, into classmates' houses and other private property, in closed city parks, and into our schools when they were closed. Sometimes we would short out lighting systems so we would not be seen. 

    I had one incident my senior year in high school (after I turned 18) where I was having a really terrible day, and a kid a few years younger than me was poking fun at me. When he wouldn't quit, I snapped and started choking him. Really choking him. It scared him, and honestly, it scared me too. When the school asked me about it, of course I denied it. Unable to prove anything either way, the school just kept us separate and it went away. Knowing that I hurt another person makes me ashamed every time I remember this, but I'm fortunate that this internal shame is my worst consequence.

    My other big one was during college. I briefly worked at a convenience store that sold scratch-off lottery tickets. Supervision was really poor, and I and a few co-workers would routinely take scratch-off tickets without paying for them. Today, it is a funny story of this dumb thing I did in college. But it very easily could have been a felony and some jail time, if not prison.

    If I had been prosecuted, convicted and sentenced for every illegal thing I've done, I definitely would have served time in prison. I would have been seen as a career criminal, escalating from trespassing, to vandalism and destruction of government property, to petty theft and burglary, to assault, and finally to felony grand theft from the state lottery. Depending on how certain things were charged, in some states I could have faced a life sentence under a three strikes law.

    Instead, I eventually grew up. I have been able to establish two successful and incredibly lucrative careers, in software and in law. I take pride in being a conscientious and honest person. I am fortunate that my adventures remained amusing stories that I can tell to friends if I choose to, rather than a public scarlet letter.

    Needless to say, I am not a prosecutor.

    —Mischievous
  • ten years of chemical use, never got charged or caught, the few open containers and small pot possessions the cops never turned in the tickets.

    all kinds of petty theft, been in fights, driving drunk still happens even though i know it's bad.

    i work with homeless people now, provide direct service to vulnerable adults. wouldnt be here if i had a record. id probably still be homeless myself, on drugs and committing daily crimes…

    —Homeless Worker
  • When I was 17 I was arrested for trying to buy liquor - a 4 pack of wine coolers. When the officer asked me if I had done it before, I lied - because I had & gotten away with it. I wasn't sure who would get into trouble more - me for doing it a second time or the liquor store for selling it to me. I decided it would be easier to say I was a "1st time offender." 

    —Wine Coolers
  • Oh, where to begin?

    Shoplifting as a child, driving before I got my license, "borrowing" cars from my family, DWI after DWI (not charged) - which in the 70s was forgivable: many cops took our beer and let us go! Recreational drug use, etc…

    —Borrowing Cars
  • I had my first cigarette when I was 11 and first drink when I was 12, so it's no wonder I never found substance abuse that much of an issue. I smoked weed with my brother who was a dealer, but not so often. I stopped even occasionally smoking because I hated it, but drinking always made me feel good. I was 22 when my sister graduated high school and I graduated college. She hadn't ever really been drunk so I thought our combined graduation party would be a good enough time as ever to get her started. She had some Grand Mariner in Sprite and hated it and didn't drink the rest of the night. And that's all it would've taken, one sip and a slightly worse night for my little sister and I'm a criminal for providing alcohol to a minor. I'm not sure I'd have been admitted in the PhD program I'm in now had I been convicted. Maybe the culture needed to change, or maybe I needed to not be such an idiot.

    —Grand Mariner
  • Considering the amount of drugs I did between the ages of 17 and 21, the only reason I'm not a 'criminal' is because I'm white and police don't stop me.

    —Age 17 to 21
  • INDECENT EXPOSURE

    DWI

    AND TOO MANY MORE…

    —Too Many More
  • Shoplifting.

    —Shoplifting
  • - Underage drinking
    - DWI
    - Driving w/ alcohol in the car
    - Marijuana possession.

    I sound like a terrible person! Ah.

    —Terrible Person
  • I used to steal things, just because it was so easy. I'd tell people, "If you act like you're supposed to be doing it, no one stops you." I would take big things, like chairs, out of bars. Only one person ever questioned me - I just told him "They told me to take it out back."

    Most of the time I wouldn't keep them, I would just do it to win a bar bet. Sometimes I'd leave the items in the parking lot, sometimes I'd bring them back. 

    I won the bet every time, though.

    —Bar Bets
  • I stole telephone poles and built a catapult. It sounds ridiculous but it's true. We shot molotov cocktails with it.

    —Catapult
  • In high school, my sister and I did not get along. At all. We always fought. We didn't 'get' each other. She was (and still is) on many medications, including Adderall.

    I knew she needed it, but frankly - I didn't care. Every once in a while I stole some. Sometimes, I popped them myself. Other times, I sold them to my friends (who took them during tests or while underage drinking). 

    My sister and I now get along - and I understand how her medication helps her. I've done many bad and illegal things in my life, but this was by far the worst - and what made me feel most guilty. 

    If I had a criminal record, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't have gone to college. I wouldn't have gone to graduate school. I would have been shunned from jobs, internships, housing. 

    I had it easy. All I have to live with now is my guilt.

    —Adderall
  • I'm not white. I went to a college where some of my white-affluent peers sold drugs, pot, pills, to pay for their use or food when they were too proud to ask their parents. I met a guy who sold pot and I inquired: had I gone through with it I would've made a $1000 profit in one trip. Could've made more.

    I'm 'straight' - never been in trouble and never will. But I think about it everyday, how they can get away with it because they're "just college kids." Where I come from, people don't go to college, they do it to feed their families.

    We always get caught.

    —College Kids
  • When I was in high school I occasionally
    drove while high on marijuana.

    —High Driving
  • Aided & abetted the sale of illegal substances.

    Made exchanges for a serious drug dealer.

    He had a key to my apartment.

    He called it a "safe house."

    —Safe House
  • Breaking & Entering

    When I was in college I worked 3 jobs and was a full-time student. Between the after-bar diner shift in St. Paul and the early morning bakery shift in Mpls, I squatted every night in the basement of the bakery. Nobody knew that I slept on the card tables in the back room for a year. 

    —Breaking and Entering
  • When I turned 28, I went on a road trip across the country - I wanted to be on my own and try things I've never tried before. It was great but the drives got lonely and long. I leisurely drank Budweiser out of a Styrofoam cup all the way across HWY 70. 

    I was on my way to California. There, I scored some pot for the first time in my life. It was really good. I took HWY 70 on my way home, too.

    I hallucinated through the Rockies.

    —Rocky Hallucinations
  • It's only luck and white privilege that have kept me out of jail, I suppose. Crimes I can think of:

    - drug possession
    - drug distribution (hundreds of pot brownies)
    - sale of prescription drugs
    - vandalism
    - shoplifting
    - trespassing
    - tax evasion

    —List of Crimes
  • I've driven over 125mph on a regular 55mph highway multiple times. I get the "safe driver discount" because of a good driving record.

    —Speeding
  • While in college and 18, I built a false wall (hollywood style) in the old coal room of my mom's basement, making a little secret grow room, and grew 6 spindly little pot plants in there. I didn't really even smoke, but I had some friends who did, and I just like secretive illegal stuff like that where no one gets hurt.

    Anyway, the room was fairly ingenious but was always premised on the idea that no one would look at the wall without the lights in the larger coal room being on, since who would ever try to go into a dark coal room without turning on the lights? If it was really dark, you could see "light leaks" from the grow room and in fact probably even tell that the false wall was faintly glowing.

    Well anyway, one night while I was away at college my mom thought she heard people breaking in and called the cops, who proceeded to search the entire house to make sure it was empty. She specifically mentioned that the cop went into the coal room, not turning on the light, and searching WITH HIS FLASHLIGHT. After he came out he shortly thereafter asked who else lived there and of course my mom said just her son who was off at college just now. I'm guessing that cop did see it but put 2 and 2 together and just didn't have the heart to blow that thing up into a federal case over such a silly little operation that he could perfectly well deny having seen. Or else he really didn't notice...I don't know.

    I should have been dead to rights, and by my reading of the relevant laws, and law enforcement practice at the time of weighting entire plants including roots with grow media attached, I would have been looking at as much as 5-10 years in prison PLUS my mother's turn of the century $350,000 house could have been seized and sold.

    —Pot Plants
  • I was a childhood kleptomaniac stealing from friends, and in my teen years I regularly shoplifted. Thankfully I did stop as an adult so I would not end up being arrested. I also sold marijuana in college and continue to illegally purchase and use marijuana today, as a successful 32 year old adult with a job, a home and in grad school.

    —Kleptomaniac
  • In the late 90s, I worked for a large national chain of electronic stores. It was a lame company, but I needed a job.

    I was a salesman, and we were paid basically on commission. But after the store closed, we had to work a 1/2 hour without compensation--counting the register, cleaning the display cases, vacuuming. We were understaffed, so the store wasn't always thoroughly cleaned during that 1/2 hour after closing.

    The regional manager was pissed by the lack of cleanliness, so he wanted us to work 45 minutes unpaid, not just 30 minutes. No way. They were not paying us big bucks and stock options. I was earning slightly more than minimum wage. I was willing to give them 30 minutes of daily unpaid labor, but I wasn't going to give them 45 minutes. If the company really valued cleanliness, they should've hired a janitor or paid us for our free time. But they didn't.

    So the regional manager punished the staff by removing the table from the employee break room. This meant we had to eat lunch with the food on our lap, or in our car.

    Up until that point, my co-workers and I were relatively honest and didn't shoplift from our own employer. But removing our lunch table was a blow to our dignity and an insult to all our hard work. We took it personally. Perhaps we should have filed a complaint with corporate headquarters or a government agency. But we got our revenge the old fashioned way: we robbed 'em blind.

    Sure, we occasionally stole some big ticket merchandise and listed it on eBay. But mostly we'd ring up small cash transactions for batteries or film without offering the customer a receipt and pocketing the cash. Since there was no table for a bagged lunch, we'd use the cash to eat out at restaurants. Every. Single. Day.

    Eventually, management figured out that the inventory was suspiciously out of whack, so they posted signs in the store informing customers to contact the corporate office if the customer didn't receive a receipt. But the customers ignored the signs. (Duh.)

    That lame company probably would've saved a ton of money just by hiring a janitor. And we would've had a clean store, too.

    —Salesman
  • I drank and drove so many times in high school and college that I'm amazed I never got into serious trouble. I remember one night, I was 18, I was driving to a party with a friend. We had two cases of beer in the backseat that we had just bought from a grocery store that sold to minors and were passing a joint back and forth. The windows were down, music was blasting from the stereo, and we were singing along at the top or our lungs. Eventually we tossed the end of the joint out of the window and that's when I saw the lights flashing in the rearview mirror; I was getting pulled over by a cop. My friend and I were both stoned and drunk so, naturally, we were freaking out but I pulled over, shut off the engine, and managed to remain calm. The cop came over to the driver's side and asked for my license and registration, which I handed over. He asked where we were going and we said to a party. He asked what we had thrown out of the window and we said a cigarette. Then he looked in the backseat and saw the cases of beer and instead of administering a breathalyzer or drunk driving test he told us to open each can and pour out every beer, which we did right there on the side of the road. Then he said that he was only giving us a verbal warning and that we should go home right away instead of to the party, which, of course, we didn't do. I think about that night often, about how lucky we were, and I wonder how much our privilege had to do with his letting us off the hook.

    —Party