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Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Expanded Use of Criminal Records and Its Impact on Reentry (Sharon M. Dietrich, Community Legal Services, Inc.)

  • Organization: Community Legal Services, Inc.
  • Author: Sharon Dietrich
  • Document Type: Report
  • Date Created: Monday, March 13, 2006
  • Submitted: Monday, March 13, 2006
  • Attachment(s): PDF

Over the past decade, criminal records have become available and used for non-law enforcement purposes to an unprecedented extent. Several trends have dovetailed, with catastrophic effect for persons with criminal records ("PCRs"): (1) the availability to the public of criminal history record information has increased exponentially; (2) multitudes of civil legal disabilities have been created for PCRs, in crucial areas such as employment, public benefits, public housing and immigration; and (3) employers and landlords have chosen to broadly bar PCRs from jobs and housing in circumstances where they are not barred by law. Taken together, these trends are creating an environment in which even the most motivated ex-offenders cannot provide for themselves and their families, making them likely candidates for recidivism or permanent members of an underclass of Americans.

These developments raise questions about whether the availability of criminal record information can and should be curbed. Should criminal records be available on demand by any and every employer, landlord or nosey neighbor? Should they be available forever, or should there be a point at which they can be expunged or sealed? What should be done if they are not accurate? These questions and others are addressed in this paper.

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