One Conviction Shouldn't Ruin Your Life

Two professors decry laws that punish criminals indefinitely
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2012 1:34 PM CST
One Conviction Shouldn't Ruin Your Life
Some offenders have never even gone to jail, but they still bear the weight of their conviction forever.   (Shutterstock)

In 2010, the Chicago Public School system decided not to hire Darrell Langdon, a single father of two, as a boiler-room engineer. Why? Because it found out he'd once been convicted of possessing a half-gram of cocaine—in 1985. Such stories are common these days, both because a whopping 30% of Americans are arrested by age 23, and because a plethora of laws ensure their mistakes haunt them forever, write professors Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura of the New York Times.

The American Bar Association has identified 38,000 state provisions penalizing convicts, including many so-called "forever rules" that can permanently deprive people of invaluable jobs or job licenses. Yet Blumstein and Nakamura's research indicates that within 10 to 13 years of someone being arrested for the first time, that person has the same likelihood of being arrested as anyone else. And so these rules must expire—or even be replaced with ones that encourage employers to give offenders a second chance. It "would not only help those people, but also our economy and our society." (More crime stories.)

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