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Expunge! Expunge! Expunge!

Updated: Dec 15, 2019

How Criminal Records Will Hold You Back.

Court records, in contrast to rap sheets, have always been public, but it used to be expensive and time-consuming to gather them.

Today, it’s often as easy as hopping online. With so much raw information available, a network of private vendors has arisen to meet the needs of curious parties. Worried that your new boyfriend seems like trouble? A background check costs around $20 and will be on your screen in minutes. Their results can also be devastatingly misleading. Though court records tend to be more complete than rap sheets, it’s far too easy to get information on one John Smith when you’re looking for another.

People with records suffer severe civic consequences, which vary from state to state.

To name just a few: Many convicted drug offenders can’t get federal education loans. Most states ban felons from voting for a period of time after their incarceration, and sometimes permanently. Others disqualify felons from receiving money from victims’ compensation funds.

For ex-offenders, that “resume” often ends up interfering with the ability to build a real one: A complex web of federal and state regulations hold back those with a criminal record from public and private employment opportunities. In some states, felons are not eligible for any kind of public employment. Some ex-offenders are also forbidden by various jurisdictions to hold certain kinds of private-industry jobs, like in banking or security firms; in even more cases, a criminal record can affect a person’s ability to attain professional licenses that are required in an ever-increasing variety of fields. (In Nevada, for example, a criminal record can render a person ineligible to register with the state gaming commission, which is required of most casino employees.) Even when employers are legally allowed to hire someone with a record, the ease and affordability of a criminal background check can make it tempting to go ahead and prescreen all applicants. A 2012 survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 69 percent of organizations say they conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates.

For the quarter of people with some kind of record, that can have dire consequences.

In research presented in her 2007 book “Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration,” Pager sent out young men on the job market, randomly assigning some of them criminal records. Ex-offenders received less than half the responses of those with otherwise identical qualifications. (The population with criminal records is, on average, harder to place in jobs than non-offenders in other ways, too. “This is a hard population, they have a lot of deficits,” said Harry Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University.)

Even people without a record of their own are affected by the criminal record’s current power. The harder it is for an ex-offender to earn a living, critics point out, the higher the costs to taxpayers for the social services he must rely on instead. It’s bad for the economy to have an entire class of people for whom the mainstream labor market is out of reach.

Everyone agrees that reducing the number of people in contact with the criminal justice system is one important way to decrease the power of the criminal record.

The decriminalization of marijuana as one promising development on this front. But another broad approach is to make criminal records more difficult for employers and others to access.

IT'S TIME TO GET YOUR RECORD CLEARED. Duffe Law can help with that.

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