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Arrests Lead to Unemployment, Underemployment, and Poverty

Darwyn L. Easley
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Attorney and Counsellor at Law

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the FBI has almost one out of every three American adults in their master criminal database. Some of these individuals were charged and convicted of a crime while others were either never charged or were found innocent. However, their arrest record follows them throughout their lives.

Study Shows Lifelong Impact on the Arrested

A study done by researchers at the University of South Carolina looked at information from a 16-year study performed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This study tracked 7,335 random 20-year-olds, checking for any arrests.

It was found that over 40 percent of the male subjects in the study had been arrested at least once by the time they were 23. The rate for African-Americans was higher, at 49 percent, where white males had a 38 percent arrest rate.

Of the men arrested, nearly 50 percent weren’t convicted and in over 25 percent of the cases they weren’t formally charged.

Yet even those who were never charged, who walked free after the arrest, suffer from a lifetime of stigma.

When it Comes to Getting a Job, So Much for Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Of the men in the study who were arrested but never charged, the majority earn lower salaries than those who were never arrested. They are also less likely to own a home. The same trend holds true for graduating or staying above the poverty line. “There is a myth that if you are arrested and cleared that it has no impact,” stated Paul Butler, professor of law at Georgetown Law. “It’s not like the arrest never happened.”

In fact, quite the opposite is true. With the advent of the Internet, employers routinely Google the name of anyone they are considering for a position and if the person has been arrested, even if all of the charges were dropped, their mugshot, along with the charges that were originally pressed, pop up. When a potential employer does even a simple background check, these arrests rear their ugly head as well.

This holds true for small businesses as well. Most employers hesitate to hire a person with an arrest record, but fear not hiring the person as well; they find their hands tied. If they don’t hire a capable worker because of an arrest, they may lose the chance to employ an excellent employee. Doing so also opens them up to discrimination claims. But if they hire the worker, they leave themselves open to a different kind of liability: a lawsuit for hiring someone with a record who does something wrong on the job. Because of this, many employers choose to steer clear of anyone with any kind of arrest record, whether they were charged or not.

What’s to be Done?

Many are calling for laws that expunge the records of those who were arrested and never charged with a crime and, after a certain period of time, those who were charged with a minor crime as well. But this doesn’t go quite far enough. The problem is that, even if official records are cleared, a quick Internet search will produce mugshots, including the reasons for the arrest, even if the person wasn’t formerly charged.

To make matters worse, getting a mugshot removed the Internet is no easy task. Many have paid thousands of dollars, only to have the mugshot pop-up again and again.

But the tide seems to be turning, however slowly. More people are becoming aware of this issue and how it affects not only individuals but the nation as a whole—think of the lost wages and tax revenue associated with having nearly 50 percent of the male workforce unable to find a job that pays well.

We Want to Hear From YOU!

What are your thoughts on this issue? Have you lost a job or been turned down due to an arrest or conviction for a minor crime? If so please let us know. Sharing your story could help bring awareness to this serious, life-altering issue.

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