While it is true that a person should pay for their crimes, exactly how long should they pay? The courts hand down judgments for a certain amount of jail or prison time, depending on the severity of the crime. The time is served and once complete, the offender is released back into society. Yet punishment often continues as their record follows them around and prevents access to many opportunities. This makes reintegration extremely difficult and unlikely.
Ex-Convicts and Jobs
One of the largest areas that ex-cons experience trouble in is in reentering the work force. Many jobs are denied to convicted felons, which is understandable. Jobs where sensitive information is handled or where access to large amounts of money occurs are unavailable to them due to it creating a high risk situation.
But there are many jobs where having a felony or misdemeanor record is irrelevant, yet their criminal record prevents them from attaining such jobs. Many retail businesses will not hire a person who they know has a felony record, yet there is no reason to reject the ex-convict. Stocking shelves, moving large pallets of products, and assisting customers are jobs that don’t involve a high amount of risk. And the jobs those who have served time can get are few in number and low in pay, which leads many to return to a life of crime.
Push to Make Expungement Easier
Centralized in San Jose but also throughout California, there is movement towards enabling ex-convicts to more easily expunge their criminal records. This will essentially prevent their felony and/or misdemeanor record from being visible. The number of jobs they could get would increase, which will in turn make rejoining society much easier for them.
The expunging of records would prevent employers from blocking someone simply due to their past. There are many who feel ex-convicts need to be given opportunities to change, and this move would help them do just that.
Eligible Crimes for Expungement
There is debate over what exactly could be expunged. There is still good reason to deny access to highly sensitive jobs. The main distinction, often already made in determining severity of judgments, is between violent and non-violent crimes. Violent crimes will generally not be expunged.
Yet non-violent crime covers a myriad of crimes, some that should qualify to be expunged with others that shouldn’t. Many people get arrested and serve time for drug possession yet a high percentage of them do turn their life around. Thus, it is wrong that such a person, who is unlikely to commit any violent crime, to have a conviction which bars them from many jobs they could perform well at.
However, those who have convictions of theft or fraud may not be eligible. Stealing costs everyone valuable time as well as money and any employer has the right to be aware of such history.
Benefits of Employed Ex-Convicts
The overall cost of keeping many ex-convicts’ criminal records open actually ends up costing more than expunging some of their records. Although not completely in place and functional, this is an issue that should be explored within determined parameters. Helping many ex-convicts return to society is not just cost-effective but can help reduce crime as well.