On television police shows or courtroom dramas, all of us have heard the expression, “Once a criminal, always a criminal.” Do you know that this statement is untrue?
Unfortunately, when it comes to employment, voting and standard of living, many people don’t know this and for those 70 million Americans with a criminal record, the reality is “once = always.”
Crimes committed during early adulthood often show up during a routine background check, even though it may have occurred twenty years ago without repetition. Also, it needn’t be a felony, many people are struggling with employment whose record is for a misdemeanor such as being disorderly or loitering. Does America really want a life-long punishment for someone that stayed too long in a park one-time and has a loitering conviction? Probably not.
This topic has been thoroughly studied and Harvard published results of their own study entitled, Sequencing Disadvantage: Barriers to Employment Facing Young Black and White Men with Criminal Records. The study is recent; it was published in April of 2016.
One experiment reported as part of the study results showed that job applicants who were randomly selected and assigned a criminal record were 50% less likely to get an employment offer, frequently they did not even get an offer to interview.
The research also showed that Americans with real criminal records and who do get employment are paid anywhere from 10% to 40% less than employees with similar education, skills, and experience but without a criminal record. In addition, they are less likely to be given raises and join others on the ladder to paycheck gains.
For these people, the time elapsed between their brush with the law and the present, makes no difference, even though, the longer they have been rehabilitated, the more unlikely they are to commit a crime. But society exacts its payback from more than the reformed criminal. Because of the lack of protections for single-time offenders of non-violent crimes their families, especially the more than 5 million kids who have had a parent put in prison, suffer too. What is terrible is that studies prove there is a racial aspect to this situation as well since parental rates of imprisonment are two to seven times higher among Hispanic and black kids as they are for whites.
This burden is then shared with society who has to help with the sheltering, feeding, and watching of kids whose parent committed non-violent crime decades ago.
States understand the costs that are passed on to society and have begun the process to either expunge or seal records of solo offense non-violent criminals. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has already signed legislation that seals records of people convicted of 2nd and 3rd-degree misdemeanors so long as they have not committed a crime of any kind for ten years.
If you have a single conviction for a non-violent crime you should speak with a criminal attorney to learn if it is possible to have your conviction expunged or sealed. Presently, over 30 states have laws that allow for expunging or sealing records following a defined term of good behavior.