Archive for the ‘economic impact of records’ Category

A group of young people from Depaul University created this song to encourage other youth to clear their juvenile criminal records:

made mistakes
feel shame
paid your debt
time to regain
your life, start fresh
interviewing for the job
dressed to impress
with more skill than is needed
but the job goes to Dropout Bob
feel cheated
only to find out it’s your record
holding you back
so you set your fingers on the keyboard
searching the net
for a way to get your record cleared
expungement erases a criminal record?
sounds too good to be true
find out it’s easy if you know how to
just need your arrest record
file a petition, get your reputation restored
$124 per arrest? hard to digest
but fees can be waived
all that’s required is your time and energy
to start a brand new life
before you’re twenty
so there’s no excuse cause now you know
get your record expunged, don’t be a zero


From Chicago Muckrakers:

For many Illinoisians arrested when they were juveniles, the novelist William Faulkner’s dictum that, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past,” rings frustratingly true.

Last year, WBEZ examined the state’s juvenile justice system. One set of stories featured young people who couldn’t access jobs as adults because they had been arrested years before.

Take the case of a Chicago resident named Franklin, arrested because he brought a knife to school with him at age 11. Franklin didn’t use the knife, and he never went to court for any kind of hearing about the matter.

But by the time he was 20 and seeking a $15-per-hour position with the U.S. Census Bureau, the incident haunted him out of a job. “By the time Franklin could trace the red flag on his record to his arrest at 11–an arrest for which he never went to court–it was too late,” WBEZ’s Linda Paul wrote. He didn’t get the job.

There is a path in place whereby people with juvenile arrest records can petition to have their records expunged. The vast majority of youth in the area don’t take these steps, however.

Read the rest especially the part where Mariah’s story is referenced…


I woke up this morning with a plan for how my day would go. Then as is often the case, my plans had to change. Let me tell you a story.

Early this morning, I got a call from a young woman who I have known since she was a freshman in high school. She was a member of a youth-led social change project that I co-founded with a group of young women of color. She has been an anti-violence activist and is a budding anti-prison organizer. The young woman who I will call Mariah just turned 21 in June. In that same month, she graduated as a registered nurse from a local community college. We were all so excited and are so proud of her accomplishment. This summer, Mariah successfully passed her nursing boards. She then officially applied for her nursing license. She needs a license in order to practice as a nurse in Illinois. This morning, she received this letter from the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation:

The key sections of the letter read:

Why you might ask?

Your FBI fingerprint results indicate that you were arrested 5/10/2004 in Chicago, IL and charged with BATTERY/BODILY HARM.

Mariah’s so-called arrest occurred when she was in the 8th grade. She and a friend got into a physical fight at school. The police were called and both young women were taken to the local precinct. They stayed there for less than an hour until their parents could pick them up. They were promptly released. Mariah had forgotten about this incident until she received the letter from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation today. The case never went to juvenile court and Mariah didn’t even know that she had been actually arrested. Mariah’s situation is by no means unique. Thousands of young people in Chicago face a similar circumstance.

As a way to document the difficult, costly, and tedious process of expunging Mariah’s juvenile criminal record, I will be posting regular updates on this blog. Tomorrow, her journey to expunge her juvenile criminal records begins with a trip to 3510 S. Michigan Avenue to get a copy of her juvenile RAP sheet. I will be accompanying her and will report back on how it went.

When I write about the school to prison pipeline and other such issues, I worry that people think that it is just an abstraction. It isn’t. Real young people are being caught up in this process. Real young people’s lives are being impacted by juvenile criminal records that they don’t even know they have. This is not an abstraction.

by Billy Dee

Today, we are asking you to help support a bill that we are passionate about and that we are working very hard to see pass in our legislature in IL. It is called the ‘Clear Up Juvenile Records” act. Here is what we are asking for and we are asking that if you live in IL, you sign this petition to support our efforts:

We the undersigned, demand a simple and inexpensive expungement process to ensure juvenile records are cleared.

The current expungement process is so complicated and expensive that according to the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court, Chicago Police arrested 18,287 youth under 17 years old in 2009 and only 437 juvenile records were expunged. The majority of these arrests are for minor offenses.

The failure to automatically clear these arrest records and the difficult process to obtain an expungement holds back youth in their transition to college, in applying for the military, and in seeking employment.

Specifically, we demand:

1.) That no local law enforcement agencies can forward juvenile records to the State Police.

2.) That an individual can petition the court to expunge their juvenile record anytime, for any reason.

Example: A record will be able to be eligible to be expunged if a youth is arrested but the petition is dismissed OR if a petition is never filed

3.) That a juvenile record is automatically expunged if a person is 18 years old and has had two years without an arrest. Law enforcement agencies would be responsible for expunging these records.

4.) To explicitly state the Illinois Human Rights Act to include civil rights violation if employers ask about expunged juvenile records

We encourage Illinois legislators and policy makers to address this critical issue to ensure our youth can successfully move forward in life.

A good article about the impact of criminal records on employment prospects:


Los Angeles Times

Eddie Lemon has an associate’s degree from Taft College near Bakersfield, Calif. He’s certified to work as a sheet metal operator and to drive a forklift. He has experience as a dishwasher and a cabinetmaker.

He also has a criminal record.

The 47-year-old Lemon believes that has made it all but impossible for him to find a job in one of the worst economies in decades. And as prisons are forced to reduce their inmate populations because of overcrowding and budget shortages, some economists fear that could lead many of them back to a life of crime.

“In a bad economy, there are fewer jobs, and when people don’t have jobs, they’re more likely to commit another crime and get sent back to prison,” said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank.

It’s never been easy to get a job after getting out of jail or prison. Most employers are hesitant to hire ex-offenders. They typically have limited education and spotty work experience, and they may have seen their skills atrophy during their time in lockup.

But what’s different now, experts say, are two trends that have dimmed employment prospects even more.

One is a severe contraction in industries such as manufacturing and construction that have traditionally been more open to hiring people with checkered pasts. The other is a rise in the number of former inmates looking for work, as state prisons and county jails try to reduce their inmate populations to save money.

“We have a record high number of people coming out of prison each year into the highest rate of unemployment since the Great Depression,” said Marc Mauer of the nonprofit Sentencing Project. “As difficult as the recession has been on people, it’s twice as difficult for people with a felony to make it in this economy.”

Hard data on joblessness among ex-convicts are hard to come by. The U.S. Labor Department doesn’t track this information. Still, experts say studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that people have difficulty getting jobs after serving time.

“When the economy is doing well, former inmates will be the last ones hired,” said Stephen Raphael, a professor of public policy at University of California-Berkeley. “When the economy slows down, they’re the first ones fired, and they have the hardest time finding work.”

Along with the stigma of a criminal record, ex-offenders struggle with a lack of education. Few have college degrees, and more than one-third don’t have a high school diploma, according to a recent study by the Center for Economic Policy Research.

That’s led many to seek work in factories or on building sites, but those jobs are now scarce.

“There are an incredible number of folks seeking employment at the low end of the labor market,” said Mark Loranger, chief executive of Chrysalis, a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps the economically disadvantaged find work. About 70 percent of Chrysalis clients have been in jail or prison.

While in prison, inmates also have fewer opportunities to learn trades as states slash their budgets. In California, for example, vocational education programs now serve 4,800 inmates, down from 9,400 in 2009, because of a $250 million budget cut, according to Peggy Bengs, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Corrections.

Lemon, the former inmate, is staying with family in South Los Angeles until he can get on his feet, but he has trouble supporting himself. People with drug convictions can’t get food stamps in California. Now he’s applying for the bottom-rung jobs that he hopes no one else will want.

“Money got scarce. I took a chance and got caught,” he said, about his 13 years behind bars for selling drugs. “Now I need something to keep me busy so I won’t have to go out there and take another chance.”

Adding to Lemon’s plight are trades and professions that flat-out won’t hire some types of ex-cons.

In California, for example, various trade groups and laws limit people with certain felony convictions from working as real estate appraisers, medical billers, speech therapists, locksmiths, barbers, security guards, pest controllers, auto dealers, tobacco retailers, public school employees, home health aides, chiropractors and dentists, according to a Stanford University study.

The Census Bureau had more temporary jobs than almost any employer this year, but it too barred the hiring of people with certain felony convictions, including murder, robbery, theft and vandalism.

David Patterson, 44, got out of prison in April after serving 32 months for grand theft auto. He knows he’s competing against thousands as he applies for low-end jobs in restaurants and factories, even though the South Los Angeles resident would love to return to driving a truck, which he did before he went to prison.

But he also knows his record is stopping potential employers from calling. That doesn’t seem right: He served his sentence, he said.

“They use your record against you,” he said. “But if you already did the time, it shouldn’t be an issue.”

Read more:

The following is a blog post from Prison Culture about the impact of criminal records on employment and other prospects.

Sociologist Devah Pager discusses her research about the impact of criminal records on employment and economic prospects.