Setting the Record Straight – Part I

An observation of the impact of criminal records on pursuing employment opportunities, its effect on national poverty, and the steps that have, can and should be taken to address this injustice.

by Scott E. Whitman

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One in three U.S. adults has been arrested by age twenty-three.[1] In real numbers, between 70 and 100 million Americans possess some type of criminal record.[2] Even a minor criminal record—such as a misdemeanor or simply an arrest without a conviction—can create an array of lifelong barriers that stand in the way of professional and financial success.[3] This systemic issue has drastic implications for individuals’ and families’ economic stability, as well as for our national economy as a fleeting encounter with the criminal justice system may close every employment door to those who may need it most.[4] For some, this essentially leaves business ownership as the only meaningful option to provide for their families and to rehabilitate their image.[5] However, given the restrictions often preventing former felons from owning businesses, criminal records have come to serve as a major driver of poverty in the United States.[6]

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