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Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

Should Criminal Records Not be Available to the Public?

  • Yes, limit access to police agencies, courts, defense attorneys and proscutors

    Votes: 10 50.0%
  • No, we have a right to know about a person's criminal record.

    Votes: 10 50.0%

  • Total voters
    20

Captain Adverse

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I saw a poll which asked "Should Criminal Records Be Erased After the Sentence is Served?" I think the pollster asked the wrong question (for the right reasons though).

The REAL question should be about public access. Thanks to data-mining companies and Background Check services, every-ones dirty laundry is open to the public. That's because we all seem to think we have a right to know everyone else's secrets, while at the same time wanting to keep our own from public view.

At issue for me is the concern that convicted felons who cannot re-integrate into society upon release, will most certainly return to a life of crime. It may surprise most people but there are approximately 65 million adult American citizens with a criminal record. This makes them effectively un-employable because they are asked on most job applications if they have been convicted of some level of crime (misdemeanor or felony). If they say yes, they don't get the job. If they say no, a background check results in their being fired a few months after hire for "lying on their application."

Our society works on the presumption that if a person has commited even one crime he/she is no longer to be trusted, ever! This leads to a form of social exile, forcing ex-felons to congregate and associate leading to eventual recidivism.

Rather than erasing a record upon release, why not simply leave the record access to police agencies, prosecutors, and the courts? That's the question. Your thoughts?
 
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RabidAlpaca

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I think once you've done your punishment it should be erased. If that's too much to ask, at least make it confidential between the person and the judicial system.

Everyone makes mistakes, especially when we're young. Having crimes you've already atoned for follow you for the rest of your life is ridiculous, and only preventing people from reintegrating.
 

Captain Adverse

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There are methods of "erasing" criminal records available in most American jurisdictions, though they are not all applied equally. Some offer relief in the form of "expungements." In some jurisdictions this allows the court the person was convicted in to review the record at the end of probation or parole and then in the interests of justice, reverse the conviction and dismiss the charges. In other jurisdictions this can only be done for someone who was arrested but not charged, or charged but not convicted. In both cases the records are expunged and no longer public.

The problem with this is it is usually reserved for people who have either not been convicted or the conviction did not lead to a prison term. The only two options for persons sent to prison are pardons or certificate of rehabilitation. However, neither of these will expunge the records, and they will show up on any background check.

Finally, you don't necessarily want a record to be "erased" immediately. The person may be of a mindset to commit a new crime right away, and a prior record is necessary to determine a new sentence based on how "habitual" the felon is. Sufficient time should pass before such records should be erased entirely. Perhaps 5 years for misdemeanors, and 10 for felonies?
 

ChunkySalsa

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If our justice system was designed to rehabilitate criminals, I'd agree to making conviction records inaccessible. Unfortunately, our criminal justice system is designed to segregate and punish convicts, which makes criminals bitter and does little to meliorate their threat to society. As a result, convicts are are more likely to commit crimes and employers should be cognizant of the risk.

If we were going to implement a blackout like you advocate, I'd add in a stipulation that a citizen should be allowed to see what records the government has on them.
 

Wiseone

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Would this extend to corporations as well? If an auto maker is found to have been criminally negligent in the creation or sale of a product, would that be hidden as well?
 

CanadaJohn

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I don't know about the US, but in Canada when a criminal background check is done no conviction/sentence information related to the person is disclosed to anyone other than the person. If you try to get a job in business where the security of people or property is involved, or if you want to purchase a gun, or if you want to volunteer in an activity involving children, I believe you should be required to have a criminal background check done. Particularly, as it relates to involvement with children, the general public demands it. As long as your "rap sheet" isn't disclosed to anyone other than police or yourself, I see no problems here.
 

ChunkySalsa

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Would this extend to corporations as well? If an auto maker is found to have been criminally negligent in the creation or sale of a product, would that be hidden as well?

Unless this changes the system that allows corporations to pay a slap-on-the-wrist bribefine to prevent any criminal wrongdoing from ever going to court, why would they ever need it? Or do you mean hiding the fact that they were slapped on the wrist in the first place?
 

a351

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I think the general public, and more specifically employers, have a right to know if the individual in question has a history of violent or sexual offenses, especially if they wish to live or work in close proximity to demographic groups they have harmed in the past.
 

Fisher

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......
At issue for me is the concern that convicted felons who cannot re-integrate into society upon release, will most certainly return to a life of crime. It may surprise most people but there are approximately 65 million adult American citizens with a criminal record. This makes them effectively un-employable because they are asked on most job applications if they have been convicted of some level of crime (misdemeanor or felony). If they say yes, they don't get the job. If they say no, a background check results in their being fired a few months after hire for "lying on their application."
....

I am sorry but I believe that is more often myth than reality. The things that led them to becoming felons would be more the issue than society shunning them. I know too many felons who have good jobs to believe that to be the sole factor in somebody not being able to get a job as often as some would have you believe. In addition, two of my businesses require bonds on some employees and the remaining people to be bondable i.e. no felonies. I have no control over that. I simply cannot hire felons in those businesses.
 

Captain Adverse

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I am sorry but I believe that is more often myth than reality. The things that led them to becoming felons would be more the issue than society shunning them. I know too many felons who have good jobs to believe that to be the sole factor in somebody not being able to get a job as often as some would have you believe. In addition, two of my businesses require bonds on some employees and the remaining people to be bondable i.e. no felonies. I have no control over that. I simply cannot hire felons in those businesses.

Actually it is not a myth. I spent some time as an adjudicator in my state's Unemployment office. During interviews with several dozen employers regarding the firing of individuals who lied about prior convictions on their applications, I asked would they have been hired if they told the truth. In EVERY single case I was told they would not have hired the individual if he had told the truth.
 

ReformCollege

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If our justice system was designed to rehabilitate criminals, I'd agree to making conviction records inaccessible. Unfortunately, our criminal justice system is designed to segregate and punish convicts, which makes criminals bitter and does little to meliorate their threat to society. As a result, convicts are are more likely to commit crimes and employers should be cognizant of the risk.

If we were going to implement a blackout like you advocate, I'd add in a stipulation that a citizen should be allowed to see what records the government has on them.

Would you want a convicted child molester living in your neighborhood, regardless of whether or not he was "bitter?"
 

ReformCollege

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I saw a poll which asked "Should Criminal Records Be Erased After the Sentence is Served?" I think the pollster asked the wrong question (for the right reasons though).

The REAL question should be about public access. Thanks to data-mining companies and Background Check services, every-ones dirty laundry is open to the public. That's because we all seem to think we have a right to know everyone else's secrets, while at the same time wanting to keep our own from public view.

At issue for me is the concern that convicted felons who cannot re-integrate into society upon release, will most certainly return to a life of crime. It may surprise most people but there are approximately 65 million adult American citizens with a criminal record. This makes them effectively un-employable because they are asked on most job applications if they have been convicted of some level of crime (misdemeanor or felony). If they say yes, they don't get the job. If they say no, a background check results in their being fired a few months after hire for "lying on their application."

Our society works on the presumption that if a person has commited even one crime he/she is no longer to be trusted, ever! This leads to a form of social exile, forcing ex-felons to congregate and associate leading to eventual recidivism.

Rather than erasing a record upon release, why not simply leave the record access to police agencies, prosecutors, and the courts? That's the question. Your thoughts?

I would say it depends largely on the crime. I would support crimes being automatically expunged after X amount of time out of prison, variable by crime.

Certain capital offenses should never be expunged, however. It needs to strike some sort of balance between reintegrating and rehabilitating criminals with their potential harm to society. Someone who is arrested for smoking dope shouldn't have a drug charge following him/her around the rest of their life. Someone is who is convicted of forcible (not statutory) rape or child molestation on the other hand, shouldn't even be seeing the light of day in the first place. But that is another matter.
 

Captain Adverse

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Would you want a convicted child molester living in your neighborhood, regardless of whether or not he was "bitter?"

Well I'm not a big fan of sex offender registration laws. That's because a lot of people on such registries aren't serial offenders or child molesters, just people who screwed up in some way people in that particular state considered sexually immoral enough to charge them with a crime.

For example, only 11 states require a person to be 18 before they can consent to sex and in several of those there is no close-in-age defense. Therefore, in some of them if a person aged 18 has sex with a person aged 16, they can be charged with one or more sex offenses. Interestingly, 16 is the age of consent in 31 states and the District of Columbia, while 17 is the age of consent in the remaining 8. So you can see just crossing a state line can lead to something that is legal in one state being illegal and registerable in another. There are more examples of differing things that place a person on the sex offender list without being either a pedophile or serial rapist, but I don't need to go into those.

My preference is to identify offenders that are a true threat and either keep them in prison, or send them to a mental facility..don't send them back out into society. But if the system releases a person back into society, I believe they deserve the presumption that they are rehabilitated and should be given the chance to re-integrate.
 

ReformCollege

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Well I'm not a big fan of sex offender registration laws. That's because a lot of people on such registries aren't serial offenders or child molesters, just people who screwed up in some way people in that particular state considered sexually immoral enough to charge them with a crime.

For example, only 11 states require a person to be 18 before they can consent to sex and in several of those there is no close-in-age defense. Therefore, in some of them if a person aged 18 has sex with a person aged 16, they can be charged with one or more sex offenses. Interestingly, 16 is the age of consent in 31 states and the District of Columbia, while 17 is the age of consent in the remaining 8. So you can see just crossing a state line can lead to something that is legal in one state being illegal and registerable in another. There are more examples of differing things that place a person on the sex offender list without being either a pedophile or serial rapist, but I don't need to go into those.

My preference is to identify offenders that are a true threat and either keep them in prison, or send them to a mental facility..don't send them back out into society. But if the system releases a person back into society, I believe they deserve the presumption that they are rehabilitated and should be given the chance to re-integrate.

This is true. I'm all for having a conversation about tightening who gets on those lists or not. But at the same time, the true sex offenders can and are a real threat to society. Why they are even back in society, is a mystery to me.
 

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Actually it is not a myth. I spent some time as an adjudicator in my state's Unemployment office. During interviews with several dozen employers regarding the firing of individuals who lied about prior convictions on their applications, I asked would they have been hired if they told the truth. In EVERY single case I was told they would not have hired the individual if he had told the truth.

Of course in EVERY single case they said that because it would have cost them higher unemployment rates if there was no cause to fire them. That is no different than people telling the Court they regret their crime AFTER they get caught for it--all self-serving :doh
 

jamesrage

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I saw a poll which asked "Should Criminal Records Be Erased After the Sentence is Served?" I think the pollster asked the wrong question (for the right reasons though).

The REAL question should be about public access. Thanks to data-mining companies and Background Check services, every-ones dirty laundry is open to the public. That's because we all seem to think we have a right to know everyone else's secrets, while at the same time wanting to keep our own from public view.

At issue for me is the concern that convicted felons who cannot re-integrate into society upon release, will most certainly return to a life of crime. It may surprise most people but there are approximately 65 million adult American citizens with a criminal record. This makes them effectively un-employable because they are asked on most job applications if they have been convicted of some level of crime (misdemeanor or felony). If they say yes, they don't get the job. If they say no, a background check results in their being fired a few months after hire for "lying on their application."

Our society works on the presumption that if a person has commited even one crime he/she is no longer to be trusted, ever! This leads to a form of social exile, forcing ex-felons to congregate and associate leading to eventual recidivism.

Rather than erasing a record upon release, why not simply leave the record access to police agencies, prosecutors, and the courts? That's the question. Your thoughts?
I think only allowing the only judicial system access to criminal records is a fair compromise.And after awhile those records should disappear completely,because you shouldn't receive extra punishment because of something you did 10 or 15 years ago.
 

Helix

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i'm fairly uncomfortable with the current state of background checks for employment. it's a serious disincentive for people to turn their lives around once released. maybe a better solution would be to have the records searchable for five years or so, and then they go private. you keep your nose clean long enough, and then you can get a good job.
 

Grand Mal

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I don't know about the US, but in Canada when a criminal background check is done no conviction/sentence information related to the person is disclosed to anyone other than the person. If you try to get a job in business where the security of people or property is involved, or if you want to purchase a gun, or if you want to volunteer in an activity involving children, I believe you should be required to have a criminal background check done. Particularly, as it relates to involvement with children, the general public demands it. As long as your "rap sheet" isn't disclosed to anyone other than police or yourself, I see no problems here.

My wife used to be contracted to Corrections. She had access to CPIC (I think that's the term) but she would have to justify any search she made through the system and her ass would have been in the wringer if she had searched any name not related to her caseload.
 

CanadaJohn

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I think only allowing the only judicial system access to criminal records is a fair compromise.And after awhile those records should disappear completely,because you shouldn't receive extra punishment because of something you did 10 or 15 years ago.

I don't know about in the US, but here in Canada, after a certain period of time, you can petition to have your record expunged and if you've not gotten in trouble since you were convicted your record can be wiped clean. I think that's reasonable - a person shouldn't be punished permanently for mistakes in the past unless you haven't learned from your mistakes and you keep making them.
 

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I saw a poll which asked "Should Criminal Records Be Erased After the Sentence is Served?" I think the pollster asked the wrong question (for the right reasons though).

The REAL question should be about public access. Thanks to data-mining companies and Background Check services, every-ones dirty laundry is open to the public. That's because we all seem to think we have a right to know everyone else's secrets, while at the same time wanting to keep our own from public view.

At issue for me is the concern that convicted felons who cannot re-integrate into society upon release, will most certainly return to a life of crime. It may surprise most people but there are approximately 65 million adult American citizens with a criminal record. This makes them effectively un-employable because they are asked on most job applications if they have been convicted of some level of crime (misdemeanor or felony). If they say yes, they don't get the job. If they say no, a background check results in their being fired a few months after hire for "lying on their application."

Our society works on the presumption that if a person has commited even one crime he/she is no longer to be trusted, ever! This leads to a form of social exile, forcing ex-felons to congregate and associate leading to eventual recidivism.

Rather than erasing a record upon release, why not simply leave the record access to police agencies, prosecutors, and the courts? That's the question. Your thoughts?

that they don't get hired is a big assumption on your part, I hired a guy back in the 80's that shook his young son and killed him. He was a young father at the time of the incident and had became a positive contributor to society after his return. He made manager with our company. The public deserves access to criminal records in case people do not choose the right path when getting out. It should be just like your credit report and follow you around the rest of your life.
 

Captain Adverse

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that they don't get hired is a big assumption on your part, I hired a guy back in the 80's that shook his young son and killed him. He was a young father at the time of the incident and had became a positive contributor to society after his return. He made manager with our company. The public deserves access to criminal records in case people do not choose the right path when getting out. It should be just like your credit report and follow you around the rest of your life.

No, it is not a big assumption on my part. I recognize that there are job opportunities for people with criminal records. Some states even have special programs to find re-employment for them (but which often suffer from abuse by unscrupulous employers). In many cases they find work in construction or as truckers (some of these eventually become independent truckers). However, the vast majority of them find it very difficult to get work, especially in our current job market. As I mentioned in a prior reply, I know this for a fact due to a recent period of employment within my State unemployment office.

We not only handled people who have lost their jobs, but also people who are seeking employment. This includes recently released felons who need help finding work. They come out willing and able, participate in job training programs and are diligent work searches, and yet the bulk (approximately 80%) remain frustrated in their efforts. This because many of the biggest employers (banks, fast food chains, companies like Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, etc.) openly declare they will not hire people with criminal records. Beyond this, facing the glut of skilled and unskilled unemployed, H.R. departments use an honest answer about criminal records as one more method used to weed out job applications to a manageable number before beginning the hiring process.

Furthermore, over the last few years since the government declared the “War on Terror,” background check have become extremely easy due to data-mining companies. News agencies haven’t helped because they typically lump people with criminal records into any story concerning threats to the “security of our nation.” I am reminded of one example a couple of years ago where all the major news networks were reporting how unsafe our commercial harbors were due to the fact that a significant portion (30% or so?) of the truckers who made pick-ups and deliveries had criminal records. Needless to say this helped “security” by reducing employment opportunities in trucking for people with criminal records. We haven't even touched on felons who are required to register as sex offenders.

I could go on and on, but the fact remains, easy access to criminal records has proven a nightmare for the majority of felons seeking honest work after release back into our society.
 
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Rocketman

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No, it is not a big assumption on my part. I recognize that there are job opportunities for people with criminal records. Some states even have special programs to find re-employment for them (but which often suffer from abuse by unscrupulous employers). In many cases they find work in construction or as truckers (some of these eventually become independent truckers). However, the vast majority of them find it very difficult to get work, especially in our current job market. As I mentioned in a prior reply, I know this for a fact due to a recent period of employment within my State unemployment office.

We not only handled people who have lost their jobs, but also people who are seeking employment. This includes recently released felons who need help finding work. They come out willing and able, participate in job training programs and are diligent work searches, and yet the bulk (approximately 80%) remain frustrated in their efforts. This because many of the biggest employers (banks, fast food chains, companies like Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, etc.) openly declare they will not hire people with criminal records. Beyond this, facing the glut of skilled and unskilled unemployed, H.R. departments use an honest answer about criminal records as one more method used to weed out job applications to a manageable number before beginning the hiring process.

Furthermore, over the last few years since the government declared the “War on Terror,” background check have become extremely easy due to data-mining companies. News agencies haven’t helped because they typically lump people with criminal records into any story concerning threats to the “security of our nation.” I am reminded of one example a couple of years ago where all the major news networks were reporting how unsafe our commercial harbors were due to the fact that a significant portion (30% or so?) of the truckers who made pick-ups and deliveries had criminal records. Needless to say this helped “security” by reducing employment opportunities in trucking for people with criminal records. We haven't even touched on felons who are required to register as sex offenders.

I could go on and on, but the fact remains, easy access to criminal records has proven a nightmare for the majority of felons seeking honest work after release back into our society.

As it should be, liability is far to great to hire a felon that cause harm to others in the workplace.
 

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As it should be, liability is far to great to hire a felon that cause harm to others in the workplace.


Exactly the presumption that prevents employment and drives these people back into a life of crime. Whatever happened to the idea that Justice balances the scales? That you do the crime, then do the time, so that you've paid for your offense when you are released back into society?

Might as well go back to the example of feudal Japan, where there were no such things as prisons. If a person was accused of any crime and judged guilty by his lord, the only punishment was death.
 

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Exactly the presumption that prevents employment and drives these people back into a life of crime. Whatever happened to the idea that Justice balances the scales? That you do the crime, then do the time, so that you've paid for your offense when you are released back into society?

Might as well go back to the example of feudal Japan, where there were no such things as prisons. If a person was accused of any crime and judged guilty by his lord, the only punishment was death.

I guess we should continue to loan money to people with bad credit history and bankruptcy on their records?
 

Captain Adverse

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I guess we should continue to loan money to people with bad credit history and bankruptcy on their records?

Please, that is a red herring if ever I saw one. You are trying to compare apples and cars. In the first place, neither bad credit nor bankruptcy prevents lenders from making additonal loans. It just increases the interest rate and reduces the amounts typically loaned until the person builds up his credit again. Second, systems are in place that allow a person to rebuild his credit, not the least of which is that most "bad credit" can only remain in credit reports for seven (7) years, while bankruptcy is 7 to 10 years.

Now unless your state offers some form of record expungement process (not all do, and several that do only allow it for arrests that don't lead to charges, and/or charges that don't lead to actual convictions), your criminal record is public and follows you for life.

Then, as already demonstrated by your comments, most people presume that if you've been convicted of a crime, you are a "criminal threat" for the rest of your life. Of course if you are already pre-judged and can't escape the effects of such prejudice, why not continue in a life of crime?

Personally I find it a strange sort of attitude for people to hold such prejudices, since I believe that just about everyone old enough to know what they are doing has committed some level of criminality in their life, they just haven't been caught. It could be as simple as regularly "fudging" your tax returns, smoking a little pot, committing acts of vandalism, or it could be something much more serious as in sexual deviancy, assault, even murder.

My view is that punishment should fit the crime, but once the punishment is completed and society allows you to return then society in obligated to accept you back without reservations.
 
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