The Papillon Foundation has collected numerous articles, reports and studies on the need to reform the criminal background check industry, the negative effects of mass incarceration upon our society, the growth of private prisons, and the need to expand laws allowing for the expungement of criminal records, restoration of civil rights and the sealing of juvenile records.
Why is reform necessary? A 2012 study in the medical journal Pediatrics found that nearly one-third of Americans have been arrested by age 23. In other words, people with criminal histories make up a significant portion of the population. The number of people who have been convicted of a crime is significantly smaller, with estimates ranging from 12 million to 14 million. But ex-offenders make up a substantial number of the nation’s jobless – enough to depress the male employment rate by 1.5 percent to 1.7 percent in 2008, according to analysis by the Center for Economic Policy Research.
The takeaway is that workers with criminal histories are not an anomaly in the labor force: They are an integral part of it. Any discussion of how to help the unemployed find jobs includes addressing the challenges facing people with criminal records.
Click on the links to read these informative documents and news articles, as well as visiting relevant web sites:
Poor people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested, and even incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans. A broken taillight, an unpaid parking ticket, a minor drug offense, sitting on a sidewalk, or sleeping in a park can all result in jail time. This 2015 report by The Institute for Policy Studies seeks to understand the multi-faceted, growing phenomenon of the “criminalization of poverty.”
Stanford University March 2014 report showing estimated benefits of expungement outweigh costs by $5,760 per person in one year.
This is a nationwide database of collateral consequences of criminal convictions for Federal, State and U.S. Territories. This sophisticated database consists of statutes and administrative rules that contain a collateral consequence.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a forum on Monday to shine a light on recent regressive voting laws throughout the country.
A 2013 report by The Sentencing Project finds that the nation’s “war on drugs” posture of recent decades may have a devastating impact on the health and safety of women and children of color and their communities. The report concludes that a provision of the 1996 welfare reform legislation passed by Congress subjects an estimated 180,000 women in the 12 most impacted states to a lifetime ban on welfare benefits.
The U.S. Justice Department (certainly no friend of sex offenders) did a recidivism study in 1994 involving the release of 272,111 prisoners from prisons in 15 states.
They tracked these prisoners for a period of three years to make accurate determinations with regard to their recidivism rate. Of the 272,111 prisoners released, there were 9,691 male sex offenders, and just 3.5 percent, or 339 out of 9,691, were returned to prison within that three-year period for another sex crime. And nearly half were re-convicted within the first year, so the average decreased during the second and third year, and fell dramatically after that, which is why they ended the study at that point.
Today, with over 95 percent of once-caught sex offenders NOT re-offending with regard to sex crimes, maybe it is time to re-evaluate the law and its effects on people’s lives.
These S.O. laws are honestly NOT about public safety — not with a 3.5 percent recidivism rate nationally. These laws are about revenge, retribution, retaliation and punishment of the worst kind. They have made us the most feared and hated element that this society has ever known — and it’s simply not necessary.
A Step Forward for Jobseekers with Criminal Records
The mass incarceration of minority communities, and the resulting mass reentry and lifetime collateral consequences, have created the “perfect storm” to ensure that criminal record-based employment discrimination serves as a surrogate for race-based discrimination.
Advancement Project was founded in 1999 in Los Angeles and Washington DC by veteran civil rights lawyers who were looking for new ways to dismantle structural barriers to inclusion, secure racial equity, and expand opportunity for all.
In order to help advocates eliminate these unfair roadblocks, the Legal Action Center has developed advocacy kits on 12 critically important policy, funding and legal issues that can be used to remove nearly all of the most harmful roadblocks to re-entry.
All of Us or None is a national organizing initiative started by formerly-incarcerated people to fight against discrimination faced after release and to fight for the human rights of prisoners.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization, dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the United States.
The Apollo 13 Project mission is to develop the ground support necessary to help prisoners accomplish a challenging reentry into society, with odds stacked against them in such areas as employment, housing, and addictions, and mental health.
Arrested Development: How Criminal Justice Records Can Sidetrack Lives
Since computer-assisted background checks are now widely used, however, even an erroneous arrest can become a black mark on someone’s record. In a tough economy, one black mark on a job application is all it can take to keep someone unemployed and out of society’s mainstream.
Background Check Companies With ‘Little Or No Accountability’ Costing Job Seekers
Thousands of U.S. job hunters are losing out because employers use faulty background-check data drawn from shoddy records, consumer advocates say in a new report.
Use of criminal-background data is exploding as the economy struggles back from the worst job crisis in decades, the National Consumer Law Center says in the report, which is being released Wednesday. To meet surging demand, countless dubious companies have sprouted up, it says.
“It’s the Wild West for background-screening report companies,” says Persis Yu, lead writer of the report. “They’re generating billions in revenue, but they have little or no accountability.”
The imprisonment of human beings at record levels is both a moral failure and an economic one—especially at a time when more and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet and when state governments confront enormous fiscal crises.
This report finds, however, that mass incarceration provides a gigantic windfall for one special interest group—the private prison industry—even as current incarceration levels harm the country as a whole.
While the nation’s unprecedented rate of imprisonment deprives individuals of freedom, wrests loved ones from their families, and drains the resources of governments, communities, and taxpayers, the private prison industry reaps lucrative rewards.
As the public good suffers from mass incarceration, private prison companies obtain more and more government dollars, and private prison executives at the leading companies rake in enormous compensation packages, in some cases totaling millions of dollars.
This 2008 annotated bibliography is designed to reflect an array of academic, federal research, policy, activist, and media literature on the impact of a criminal record on employment and successful reentry for formerly incarcerated people, particularly women and families.
Best Practices in Green Re-Entry Strategies outlines opportunities and potential of jobs in high demand green sectors; best practices of re-entry programs; and public policies that can promote fair opportunities for people with criminal histories in the emerging green economy. Case studies are included throughout to promote deeper understanding of the issues.
Big Pepsi settlement shows background check peril
Pepsi Beverages will pay $3.1 million to resolve EEOC charges that it discriminated against minorities when it refused to hire applicants with arrest records.
The EEOC alleged that Pepsi’s practice of using previous arrests to rule out applicants—even those never convicted of a crime—constituted disparate impact discrimination against minorities. The EEOC claims the practice affected 300 black applicants. Pepsi has agreed to change its policies.
The EEOC has long held that criminal background checks should be limited to only those positions where such information is “job-related and of business necessity.” In those cases, the EEOC believes only convictions should count against the applicant, not arrests.
A 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 73% of major employers always check applicants’ criminal records. Only 19% do so because of security or safety concerns related to a specific job.
BLACK LIVES MATTER: ELIMINATING RACIAL INEQUITY IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM provides a comprehensive review of programs and policies across the nation and identifies a broad range of initiatives that can address racial disparities at all levels of the criminal justice system. The report highlights initiatives in more than 20 states designed to address the criminal justice system’s high rate of contact with people of color.
A longstanding flaw in the Census counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison location, even though almost all are barred from voting and are not legal residents of the surrounding community.
This report describes a number of ways in which background screening companies make mistakes that greatly affect a consumer’s ability to find employment. Although the mistakes discussed in this report are not inclusive of all errors found on background checks, attorneys and community organizations that work with consumers with faulty background reports state that they repeatedly see background reports that:
- Mismatch the subject of the report with another person;
- Reveal sealed or expunged information;
- Omit information about how the case was disposed or resolved;
- Contain misleading information; and
- Mischaracterize the seriousness of the offense reported.
In addition to the large national corporations, there are countless smaller local and regional companies providing criminal record information to local employers and property managers. Currently there are no licensing requirements to become a background checking agency and there is no system for registration. Thus, the total number of commercial reporting agencies currently operating is unknown. Anyone with a computer, an Internet connection, and access to records can start a background screening business.
The Caging of America: Why Do We Lock Up So Many People?
For a great many poor people in America, particularly poor black men, prison is a destination that braids through an ordinary life, much as high school and college do for rich white ones. More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.
In response to the apparent triumphs of the sixties, mass imprisonment became a way of reimposing Jim Crow. Blacks are now incarcerated seven times as often as whites. “The system of mass incarceration works to trap African Americans in a virtual (and literal) cage,” the legal scholar Michelle Alexander writes. Young black men pass quickly from a period of police harassment into a period of “formal control” (i.e., actual imprisonment) and then are doomed for life to a system of “invisible control.” Prevented from voting, legally discriminated against for the rest of their lives, most will cycle back through the prison system. The system, in this view, is not really broken; it is doing what it was designed to do.
The Center on Wrongful Convictions has been instrumental in the exonerations of 34 innocent men and women in Illinois. It publishes the National Registry of Exonerations, an up to date list of all known exonerations in the United States since 1989.
Centurion Ministries mission is to free from prison those innocent individuals who had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the crimes for which they were convicted and sentenced to either life or death.
The statute books in every jurisdiction are filled with laws that disqualify and discriminate against people because of their criminal record, excluding them from jobs, occupational licenses, housing, and other benefits and opportunities.
Some restrictions on convicted persons are narrowly tailored to protect against an identified public safety risk. Others are categorical, arbitrary, and without temporal limitation, without regard to any post-conviction rehabilitation.
Clean Slate: Expanding Expungements and Pardons for Non-violent Federal Offenders
University of Cincinnati Law Review: Vol. 79: Issue 1, Article 4.
The cost of a nation of incarceration
Is it fair to call the United States the “incarceration nation”? That’s what some experts say. And even some veteran law enforcement and correction officials think something’s gone wrong.
Criminal Background Checks: Do They Violate Civil Rights?
Job applicants with criminal records are routinely denied employment opportunities due to extreme no-hire policies that routinely, and often illegally, block job applicants with criminal records.
Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry
Many states are imposing new and often onerous “user fees” on individuals with criminal convictions. Yet far from being easy money, these fees impose severe – and often hidden – costs on communities, taxpayers, and indigent people convicted of crimes. They create new paths to prison for those unable to pay their debts and make it harder to find employment and housing as well to meet child support obligations.
The Cruel Poverty of Monetary Sanctions
2014 article by Alexes Harris of the University of Washington about modern-day debtors’ prisons in America.
Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.
DEFENDING DEMOCRACY: Confronting Barriers to Voting Rights in America
Concerted “block the vote” efforts are a direct response to two important recent developments: (1) the unprecedented levels of political participation by African Americans and other voters of color in the 2008 Presidential Election, and (2) the significant growth of communities of color, as reflected in the 2010 Census. This report examines these coordinated efforts to suppress the growing voting strength of communities of color, the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the young, and offers some important democracy enhancing responses.
The Democracy Restoration Act is federal legislation that seeks to restore voting rights in federal elections to the nearly 4 million disenfranchised Americans who have been released from prison and are living in the community, but are still denied the right to vote.
The Democracy Restoration Act, S. 2017 (DRA) would eliminate the confusion caused by the current patchwork of state laws; streamline election administration; ensure that probationers never lose their right to vote in federal elections; and notify people about their right to vote in federal elections when they are leaving prison, sentenced to probation or convicted of a misdemeanor.
Many felony disfranchisement laws have their roots in the Jim Crow era and were intended to bar minorities from voting.
This bibliography represents a selection of the literature on discharge planning from
the systems that people who experience chronic homelessness are most often in contact with. It is divided into three sections: Criminal Justice; Youth; and Health, Behavioral Health, and Other Related Issues.
New data released last week by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights signal that youth of color are disproportionately the subjects of harsh school discipline. The high punishment rates noted in the report are of critical significance not only because of their impact on student learning, but also because such discipline measures have proved to be a first step toward incarceration. Pervasive racial discrimination at all levels of the criminal justice system has relegated record numbers of people of color to lengthy prison terms and the loss of their most basic civil rights. Severe school discipline policies—including zero tolerance edicts—are contributing to this civil rights problem. African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today. Yet instead of steering these students away from prison, current school discipline practices ensure that disproportionate numbers of students of color are trapped within the school-to-prison pipeline.
Every year, more than half a million inmates return home from prison. And in this economy many face a tough time finding work. That’s why the Labor Department has awarded a series of grants to help reintegrate ex-offenders.
EEOC Meeting April 25 to Vote on New Guidance for Criminal Records Used by Employers for Background Checks
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 to vote on proposed ‘Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’ to revise guidance on the use of criminal records by employers for employment screening background checks.
Electronic security firms are coming under increasing pressure to submit staff and group members to proper scrutiny and purge their organizations of those with criminal records.
Government practices already allow several industries, including banks, credit unions and private security guard firms, access to FBI databases for criminal background checks of potential employees.
However, electronic security companies aren’t among the 22 industries the U.S. Congress has approved to access the database.
2008 Urban Institute Research Brief exploring the reality of finding employment after release from prison from the perspective of 740 former male prisoners in Illinois, Ohio, and Texas.
A number of studies have concluded that married men and men with steady jobs are less likely to break the law than single men or unemployed men. While these studies appear to state the obvious, they lead to a huge unanswered question….how can ex-offenders find and keep a job and/or a marriage partner?
Nationwide there are 2.3 million people in federal, state and local prisons. More than 700,000 are released nationally from state and federal prisons each year and more than nine million from local jails. The three-year recidivism rate nationally is 50 percent.
When an individual has made a mistake, paid his or her debt to society and is ready to get on with a productive life, we need to do what we can to help.
The Federal Trade Commission is calling for legislation that would give citizens access to the information that commercial data brokers store about them.
In a privacy report released this week, the FTC is urging the adopting of a law that would let consumers access and dispute personal data held by information brokers.
The report comes as the business of background checks is booming. An investigation by The Associated Press last year found that data brokers often store incorrect or outdated information, including criminal records.
The Federal Trade Commission warned marketers of six mobile applications that provide background screening apps that they may be violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FTC warned the apps marketers that, if they have reason to believe the background reports they provide are being used for employment screening, housing, credit, or other similar purposes, they must comply with the Act.
According to the FTC, some of the apps include criminal record histories, which bear on an individual’s character and general reputation and are precisely the type of information that is typically used in employment and tenant screening.
Felonbook.com aims to unify 65 million Americans with criminal records via a private, members only social media networking community, all built upon game changing principles of anonymous viral activism, or A-V-A.
While many states continue to make it very difficult for felons to get their gun rights back — and federal felons are out of luck without a presidential pardon — many other jurisdictions are far more lenient, The New York Times found. In some, restoration is automatic for nonviolent felons as soon as they complete their sentences. In others, the decision is left up to judges, but the standards are generally vague, the process often perfunctory. In some states, even violent felons face a relatively low bar, with no waiting period before they can apply.
Advocating Opportunity is a non-profit organization that provides direct legal services and whole person advocacy to human
trafficked and exploited persons.
GROWTH IN THE U.S. EX-FELON AND EX-PRISONER POPULATION, 1948 TO 2010
This paper extends previous national estimates of the U.S. ex-felon population to 2010 and develops state-level estimates based on demographic life tables.
Key Finding: “If we adopt a more inclusive definition of the criminal class, including all convicted of a felony regardless of imprisonment, these numbers increase to 19.8 million persons, representing 8.6 percent of the adult population and approximately one-third of the African American adult male population. Any group of this size will have profound and far-reaching social, political, and demographic consequences.”
This year, our law students have been working on a project to track recidivism rates in states that had different systems for sealing or expunging juveniles’ records. Generally, recidivism research isn’t happening on a large scale nationwide because it is expensive to track someone’s path over a long period of time. We found, however, that a few states investigated how quickly juveniles reoffend in cases of lower-level crimes. Interestingly, we found that if a juvenile doesn’t commit another crime for 18 months, he or she is unlikely to recommit at all.
Internal Revenue Service employment offices often don’t have records on hand to show that the rigorous screening required for agency job applicants was done before employees began working, according to an auditreleased Monday.
IRS job applicants, much like a taxpayer undergoing an audit, are subjected to a fine-toothed comb examination. This includes: a fingerprint check against FBI records; a check of whether applicants have complied with their tax obligations over the last three years; a check for whether a previous termination or other action would preclude their rehiring; verification of their citizenship and their eligibility to legally work in the United States; and, for males born in 1960 or later, whether they registered with the Selective Service as required. Additional requirements apply to higher-level positions.
Of the four employment centers studied, for example, two had complete or virtually complete records on fingerprint checks but the other two had such records in only about a quarter of the cases. And none had records on more than three-tenths of cases involving “unfavorable fingerprint results.”
The goal of justice reinvestment is to redirect some portion of the $54 billion America now spends on prisons to rebuilding the human resources and physical infrastructure—the schools, healthcare facilities, parks, and public spaces—of neighborhoods devastated by high levels of incarceration.
ACLU, October 2010
In Search of a Job: Criminal Records as Barriers to Employment
NIJ Journal, Issue No. 270, June 2012
Consumer law attorney Len Bennett of Newport News, Va., said criminal background checks are no panacea.
“I would suggest that at least one-third of criminal background checks will have materially inaccurate information in them, and I’ve reviewed thousands,” Bennett said.
Common mistakes include multiple reports of a single offense, the inclusion of convictions and arrests that were legally expunged, and even the inclusion of another person’s criminal offenses.
The pool of Americans seeking jobs includes more people with criminal histories than ever before, a legacy in part of stiffer sentencing and increased enforcement for nonviolent crimes like drug offenses, criminal justice experts said. And each year, more than 700,000 people are released from state and federal prisons, a total that is expected to grow as states try to reduce the fiscal burden of their overcrowded penal institutions.
Almost 65 million Americans have some type of criminal record, either for an arrest or a conviction, according to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project, whose policy co-director, Maurice Emsellem, says that the figure is probably an underestimate.
States should pass legislation that allows individuals to seal or expunge arrests that did not lead to conviction or to have their criminal records sealed or expunged after a reasonable period of time.
These reforms can mitigate the stigma that can result from an arrest or conviction record and lower the barriers to successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society, while protecting public safely and maintaining community trust.
A summary of State laws prepared in 2011 by The National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws
The Limits of Citizenship: Rights of Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners in USA
The rights of prisoners and ex-prisoners are an excellent measure and estimate for the strength of human rights in a given society. The more punitive and exclusionary are the policies towards prisoners and ex-prisoners, the less protected are the rights of citizens in general. The more a society excludes prisoners and ex-prisoners, the more ready it is to limit the rights of other members of that society.
The prison education enterprise is perhaps more important now than ever, as the prison population surges and evidence accumulates about the effectiveness of prison education programs on recidivism. Yet this population continues to be under-educated, with most prisoners having less than a high school education.
Ever-larger numbers of ex-prisoners are returning to their communities poorly prepared to re-enter the workforce and, as a result, to support themselves and
their families, or to form families and rear children.
It is a formula for disaster — for more crime, more recidivism, and greater cost to society.
The Marijuana Policy Project seeks to:
- Increase public support for non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies.
- Identify and activate supporters of non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies.
- Change state laws to reduce or eliminate penalties for the medical and non-medical use of marijuana.
- Gain influence in Congress
The 2011 MARQUET REPORT ON EMBEZZLEMENT demonstrates the fallacy of relying on criminal background history reports to predict future conduct by prospective employees. At page 14 of the report, the following findings were made:
“While we do not believe we have complete data, we were able to determine that 23 perpetrators in the sample of 473 were known to have engaged in prior criminal/fraudulent activity. This represents 4.9 percent of the sample, which is roughly consistent with our prior years’ analyses.”
Thus, 95.1% of the major embezzlements reported in 2011 were perpetrated by employees with no criminal record of any kind whatsoever.
AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 2004, VOL. 69 (April:151–169)
Although growth in the U.S. prison population over the past twenty-five years has been widely discussed, few studies examine changes in inequality in imprisonment. We study penal inequality by estimating lifetime risks of imprisonment for black and white men at different levels of education. Combining administrative, survey, and census data, we estimate that among men born between 1965 and 1969, 3 percent of whites and 20 percent of blacks had served time in prison by their early thirties. The risks of incarceration are highly stratified by education. Among black men born during this period, 30 percent of those without college education and nearly 60 percent of high school dropouts went to prison by 1999. The novel pervasiveness of imprisonment indicates the emergence of incarceration as a new stage in the life course of young lowskillblack men.
National Action NetworkThis 2011 report by the NAACP highlights the need for state legislatures to realign funding priorities in this nation. Our nation’s prioritizing of incarceration over education sends the wrong message to our children about their future and we
cannot allow this to continue. is one of the leading civil rights organizations in the Nation, with chapters throughout the U.S. Founded in 1991 by Reverend Al Sharpton, NAN works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote a modern civil rights agenda that includes the fight for one standard of justice, decency and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, national origin, and gender.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a nonprofit, non-partisan, organization committed to preventing and ending homelessness in the United States. By improving policy, building capacity, and educating opinion leaders, the Alliance has become a leading voice on this issue.
National Blueprint for Reentry: Model policies to promote the successful reentry of individuals with criminal records through employment and education.
Through the National Criminal History Improvement Program, the Bureau of Justice Statistics provides direct awards and technical assistance to states and localities to improve the quality, timeliness, and immediate accessibility of criminal history records and related information.
National Employment Law Project letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, dated March 2, 2012
Provides examples of some of the common problems found on criminal background checks, including inaccuracies, incorrect information, and misleading and prejudicial formats. For many job seekers the incorrect, misleading, or inaccurate information contained on their criminal history report creates a barrier to employment.
National Reentry Resource Center
The National Reentry Resource Center, established by the Second Chance Act(Public Law 110-199) and administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, provides education, training, and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, local governments, service providers, non-profit organizations, and corrections institutions working on prisoner reentry.
Negligent Hiring: A Myth or a Reality for Employers?
Negligent hiring liability is a central issue in many discussions about employment
opportunities for persons with a criminal record. Many employers are creating blanket exclusions against hiring qualified people with a criminal history no matter how minor or how old the conviction.
A new report released by the American Civil Liberties Union puts the spotlight on the disturbing realities of prison privatization, a multi-billion dollar industry that has exploded in the past three decades. “Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration” is the first comprehensive analysis of privatization’s destructive impacts on the already overgrown prison industry.
This issue brief summarizes a report which assembles decades of research as well as persuasive new data to demonstrate that America’s heavy reliance on juvenile incarceration has not paid off, and in fact, is a failed strategy for combating youth crime.
More than seven million people in the United States are under the supervision of the criminal justice system. Of these, more than two million are behind bars. Making matters worse, African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated for drug offenses.
For states and localities, the cost of managing the prison population has grown significantly. Between 1988 and 2009, annual state corrections spending jumpedfrom $12 billion to more than $50 billion.
Close to one in three teens and young adults get arrested by age 23, suggests a new study that finds more of them are being booked now than in the 1960s.
The increase might not necessarily reflect more criminal behavior in youth, but rather a police force that’s more apt to arrest young people than in the past.
The Open Society Foundationswork to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this mission, the Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, the Open Society Foundations implement a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, we build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information. The Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.
If enacted, the Democracy Restoration Act, which was introduced in the House earlier this year, would restore voting rights in federal elections to people with past criminal convictions once they have completed their prison sentences.
The bill would ultimately enfranchise 4 million people living and working in our communities who have served their time but nevertheless remain barred from voting under state laws that exclude even former prisoners from electoral participation.
“It’s very hard for elected lawmakers to look tough on crime while at the same time being against expanding the criminal law,” O’Toole said.
“Everyone wants to seem tough on crime, but I think the real problem is that nobody has been all that smart on crime,” he said.
Prepared by the Joint Legislative Task Force on Juvenile Record Sealing on September 28, 2011
The impact of these arrests is felt for years. The ubiquity of criminal-background checks and the efficiency of information technology in maintaining those records and making them widely available, have meant that millions of Americans — even those who served probation or parole but were never incarcerated — continue to pay a price long after the crime.A stunning number of young people are arrested for crimes in this country, and those crimes can haunt them for the rest of their lives.
We propose that the “forever rules” be replaced by rules that provide for the expiration of a criminal record. We believe it is unreasonable for someone to be hounded by a single arrest or conviction that happened more than 20 years earlier.
Public Attitudes Toward Uses of Criminal History Information
U.S. Department of Justice (2001). This report presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted in February and March 2000 among a national probability sample of 1,030 adults 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States. The primary purpose of the study is to assess public attitudes toward the availability and use of individuals’ criminal history records outside of the criminal justice system.
Prison Aftershock, a blog dedicated to exploring solutions for ending recidivism in California (and America) and helping ex-offenders successfully reenter society.
Report of the National Task Force on the Commercial Sale of Criminal Justice Record Information
U.S. Department of Justice (2005). This report is the first-ever comprehensive look at the role that commercial background screening companies play in the collection, maintenance, sale,and dissemination of criminal history record information.
Report of The National Task Force on the Criminal Backgrounding of America
U.S. Department of Justice (2005). This report is intended to provide law- and policymakers with recommendations and discussion on criminal backgrounding for noncriminal justice purposes.
It is well known — and widely accepted by criminologists and practitioners alike — that recidivism declines steadily with time clean. Most detected recidivism occurs within three years of an arrest and almost certainly within five years. But is it possible to identify when the risk of recidivism has declined sufficiently to be considered irrelevant in hiring decisions?
A review of current law reveals that almost every state has embraced and institutionalized the utilization of DNA fingerprinting for crime fighting purposes.
National Employment Law Project, December 2011
Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration Justice Policy Institute (2014)
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the July 1 report from the Florida Parole Commission backs up other studies that have shown criminals are less likely to commit new crimes if they are integrated back into society.
Think it Can’t Happen to You?
Stories of real people harmed by inaccurate or misleading criminal background checking reports
It’s anyone’s worst nightmare—getting caught up in the legal system. Whether it’s a result of a night of indiscretion or something more serious, a criminal charge or conviction could be one of the factors medical school admissions committees use when making decisions.
Most medical schools ask applicants to disclose prior convictions. Some schools only ask about felonies, while others want to know about anything other than a minor traffic violation (such as a speeding ticket). The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has a national background check service that reviews databases for a list of participating schools, which are listed on the website. Some medical schools in certain states, such as Illinois, perform additional checks.
Today people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. Further, racial disparities in the criminal-justice system threaten communities of color—disenfranchising thousands by limiting voting rights and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education to millions more. In light of these disparities, it is imperative that criminal-justice reform evolves as the civil rights issue of the 21st century.
Statistics from the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute tell us that less than 5% of all child molesters have a criminal history. The Institute through years of research also points to the fact that 90% of all children are abused by people they know, trust and love. Because of that convoluted association of child, parent and abuser, the sexual abuse goes unreported. The vast majority of child abusers won’t be found in the system because they have no fingerprints or criminal history that would tie them to child sexual abuse.
The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond is a national and international collective of anti-racist, multicultural community organizers and educators dedicated to building an effective movement for social transformation.
A fact sheet from The Sentencing Project
Do you refuse to hire job applicants with an arrest or criminal record? No matter how small or irrelevant the infraction is to the job?
If you do, be careful. The Equal Employment Opportunity has announced that it reached a $3.1 million settlement with PepsiCo over such a policy. Investigators concluded that the practice disproportionately affected African-Americans and other minorities.
The Pepsi settlement is also not the first time the agency has targeted such criminal background check policies.
In fact, some predict that these types of enforcement actions will only increase with time. Commission officials have signaled a growing awareness of issues facing persons with criminal records. This is especially true for racial minorities, as they have higher arrest and conviction rates than whites.
Pepsi Beverages Co. will pay $3.1 million to settle federal charges of race discrimination for using criminal background checks to screen out job applicants — even if they weren’t convicted of a crime.
EEOC officials said the company’s policy of not hiring workers with arrest records disproportionately excluded more than 300 black applicants. The policy barred applicants who had been arrested, but not convicted of a crime, and denied employment to others who were convicted of minor offenses.
About 73 percent of major employers report that they always check on applicants’ criminal records, while 19 percent do so for select job candidates, according to a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.
“We hope that employers with unnecessarily broad criminal background check policies take note of this agreement and reassess their policies to ensure compliance” with antidiscrimination laws, Schmid said in a written statement.
People living in America make up 5 percent of the planet’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
Even if those prisoners are guilty, many are questioning whether they all should be behind bars. A surprising coalition is now saying definitely not.
Liberals and conservatives are banding together, agreeing that many people who shouldn’t be behind bars are being imprisoned at a high cost to society.
Safer’s mission is to reduce recidivism by supporting, through a full spectrum of services, the efforts of people with criminal records to become employed, law-abiding members of the community.
Signed into law on April 9, 2008, the Second Chance Act (P.L. 110-199) was designed to improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons and jails. This first-of-its-kind legislation authorizes federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victims support, and other services that can help reduce recidivism.
While the FCRA and EEOC provide a legal framework under which consumer reporting agencies and employers report and use criminal records, there are a number of state laws that limit the use of arrest and conviction records by prospective employers. These range from laws and rules prohibiting the employer from asking the applicant any questions about arrest records, to those restricting the employer’s use of conviction data in making an employment decision. In some states, while there is no restriction placed on the employer, there are protections provided to the applicant with regard to what information they are required to report.
The severe economic climate facing the states has fueled a growing recognition of the need for cost saving alternatives to incarceration. This paper seeks to contribute to this momentum for state-level reform by identifying policies that reduce the employment barriers faced by people with criminal records.
States around the country are putting forth reforms meant to promote employment for people with a criminal record, according to a new report by the National Employment Law Project.
A host of state and federal laws limit the civil rights of individuals with criminal records in a wide variety of settings. This Article describes statutory limitations in eight areas: ability to obtain employment, eligibility for public housing, eligibility for public assistance and food stamps, eligibility for student loans, access to records for non-criminal justice purposes, voting rights, drivers’ license privileges, and rights to be foster and adoptive parents.
Once a person has acquired the legal status of a convicted felon in the United States, it is next to impossible to regain the rights and status of an ordinary citizen, no matter what the crime, and no matter how heroic the person’s rehabilitation.
After a thorough examination of the expungement laws of all fifty states, one can see a clear pattern which shows that states with the most stringent expungement laws have the highest rates of unemployment, while states with lenient expungement laws tend to have lowest unemployment rates.
Researchers in a Swedish study found that those with multiple convictions aged between 15 and 19 years had triple the risk of suicide by young adulthood compared with their more law-abiding peers.
According to one poll, 89 percent of respondents support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check at gun shows, 94 percent support requiring gun owners to alert police if their guns are lost or stolen, and 69 percent support requiring those buying ammunition to pass a criminal background check. Another poll showed 86 percent of respondents supported background checks for every gun buyer.
Six billion dollars. That is what the federal government spends each year on its prison population. The 6 billion dollar figure represents a 1,700 percent increase in spending since just 1980. Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen an increase from 24,000 people incarcerated to 210,000 today.
The ABA urges Congress to support reforms that increase public safety while reducing the federal deficit, including: Expanding the use of probation and expungement of criminal convictions for low-level offenders …
As incarceration levels have risen in the United States, an ever-larger number of citizens have temporarily or permanently lost the right to vote. What are the political consequences of such franchise restrictions for convicted felons?
There are three primary contributing factors leading a criminal justice system where significant numbers of innocent defendants plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. The first is the perceived need that all defendants must plead. The second is the current draconian sentencing regime for criminal offenses. And, the final contributing factor is that plea bargaining is, for the most part, an unregulated industry.
Unprison: Fighting against the Prison Industrial Complex. The Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement is committed to fight for the full restoration of civil and human rights for all people, particularly those who have been convicted by the criminal justice system and the communities they represent. The criminal system has rendered millions of people, and their families, into an under-caste of society, with no regard for rights or justice.
The US has 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of all those in prison worldwide.
Crime has not fallen in the United States—it’s been shifted. Just as Wall Street connived with regulators to transfer financial risk from spendthrift banks to careless home buyers, so have federal, state, and local legislatures succeeded in rerouting criminal risk away from urban centers and concentrating it in a proliferating web of hyperhells. The statistics touting the country’s crime-reduction miracle, when juxtaposed with those documenting the quantity of rape and assault that takes place each year within the correctional system, are exposed as not merely a lie, or even a damn lie—but as the single most shameful lie in American life.
What is America’s crime rate, really? If America’s penal system as a whole amounts to a crime against humanity, maybe that ought to count for something, too.
The business of background checks is booming. Employers spend at least $2 billion a year to look into the pasts of their prospective employees. They want to make sure they’re not hiring a thief, or worse.
But it is a system weakened by the conversion to digital files and compromised by the welter of private companies that profit by amassing public records and selling them to employers. These flaws have devastating consequences.
Getting the information removed and corrected from so many different databases can be a daunting mission. Even if it’s right in one place, it can be wrong in another database unknown to an individual until a prospective employer requests information from it. By then, the damage is done.
Representative John Conyers Jr. recently reintroduced into the House theDemocracy Restoration Act, a bill that would go a long way toward ending disenfranchisement. A broad coalition of law enforcement, religious leaders and civil rights groups support the measure, which would restore voting rights in federal elections to all Americans who are out of prison.
Note: The United States is the only Western democracy that permits the permanent denial of voting rights to individuals with felony convictions.
Criminal background checks aren’t much help when more than 85% of fraudsters in the ACFE study had never before been charged with a fraud-related offense.
Workplace Fairness is a non-profit organization that provides information, education, and assistance to individual workers and their advocates nationwide and promotes public policies that advance employee rights. Our goals are that workers and their advocates are educated about workplace rights and options for resolving workplace problems and that policymakers, members of the business community, and the public at large view the fair treatment of workers as both good business practice and sound public policy.
Wrongful Convictions Blog: Addressing Wrongful Conviction and Actual Innocence Issues in a Global Forum