The Double Bind: Obstacles to Employment and Resources for Survivors of the Criminal Justice System
University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change, Vol. 15, 2012
17 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2014
Date Written: April 1, 2012
In Pennsylvania, individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system, regardless of the outcome of their case(s), are marked for life. This mark, in the form of criminal history record information, attaches a wide range of collateral consequences that expand an individual's punishment beyond that which is originally contemplated by the criminal justice system. Generally, collateral consequences are indirect civil penalties that spring from criminal convictions. Collateral consequences often have a negative impact on employment, housing (public and private), public benefits, occupational licensing, voting rights, immigration status, and social stigma. In Pennsylvania, even non-conviction data, such as arrests not leading to conviction, acquittals, or not guilty verdicts are part of an individual's criminal history record information. Because non-conviction data is publicly available for review, collateral consequences spring from conviction as well as non-conviction data.
Due to technological advances in electronic data, which provide easy access to criminal history record information, the use of criminal background checks for employment," housing, and access to social services' has become routine. While it is unlawful in Pennsylvania for an employer to use non-conviction data in hiring decisions, employers often adopt blanket criminal history record information policies, which reject any individual with any type of criminal history record information, even non-conviction records. Accordingly, it is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals with criminal history record information to find gainful employment or access safe and adequate housing and other social services. The collateral consequences of criminal history record information disproportionately affect the poor, Black and Hispanic communities in Pennsylvania and systematically impede wealth accumulation by stunting an individual's economic opportunities. This further perpetuates and compounds past inequities. In Pennsylvania, a petition for expungement and/or redaction is one tool that advocates can use to reduce the effects of criminal history record information.
Keywords: criminal records, collateral consequences, barriers, employment, expungement, wealth accumulation, dissemination, poor, over policing
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