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Center for American Progress - One Strike and You’re Out, 2014

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One Strike and You’re Out
How We Can Eliminate Barriers to Economic Security and Mobility
for People with Criminal Records
By Rebecca Vallas and Sharon Dietrich  December 2014

	W W W.AMERICANPROGRESS.ORG

One Strike and You’re Out
How We Can Eliminate Barriers to Economic Security
and Mobility for People with Criminal Records
By Rebecca Vallas and Sharon Dietrich  December 2014

Contents

	 1	 Introduction and summary
	 4	Background
	 9	 Barriers to employment
	16	 Barriers to housing
	22	 Barriers to public assistance
	26	 Barriers to education and training
	29	 Barriers to economic security and financial empowerment
	34	 Recommendations
	49	 Conclusion
	51	 Appendix A
	65	 Appendix B
	67	 About the authors & acknowledgments
	68	 Endnotes

Introduction and summary
Between 70 million and 100 million Americans—or as many as one in three—
have a criminal record.1 Many have only minor offenses, such as misdemeanors and
nonserious infractions; others have only arrests without conviction. Nonetheless,
because of the rise of technology and the ease of accessing data via the Internet—
in conjunction with federal and state policy decisions—having even a minor
criminal history now carries lifelong barriers that can block successful re-entry
and participation in society. This has broad implications—not only for the
millions of individuals who are prevented from moving on with their lives and
becoming productive citizens but also for their families, communities, and the
national economy.
Today, a criminal record serves as both a direct cause and consequence of poverty.
It is a cause because having a criminal record can present obstacles to employment,
housing, public assistance, education, family reunification, and more; convictions
can result in monetary debts as well. It is a consequence due to the growing
criminalization of poverty and homelessness. One recent study finds that our nation’s
poverty rate would have dropped by 20 percent between 1980 and 2004 if not for
mass incarceration and the subsequent criminal records that haunt people for
years after they have paid their debt to society.2 Failure to address this link as part
of a larger anti-poverty agenda risks missing a major piece of the puzzle.
It is important to note that communities of color—and particularly men of color—
are disproportionately affected, and high-poverty, disadvantaged communities
generate a disproportionate share of Americans behind bars. As Michelle Alexander
argues in her book The New Jim Crow, mass incarceration and its direct and collateral
consequences have effectively replaced intentional racism as a form of 21st century
structural racism.3 Indeed, research shows that mass incarceration and its effects
have been significant drivers of racial inequality in the United States, particularly
during the past three to four decades.4

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Moreover, the challenges associated with having a criminal record come at great
cost to the U.S. economy. Estimates put the cost of employment losses among
people with criminal records at as much as $65 billion per year in terms of gross
domestic product.5 That’s in addition to our nation’s skyrocketing expenditures for
mass incarceration, which today total more than $80 billion annually.6
The lifelong consequences of having a criminal record—and the stigma that
accompanies one—stand in stark contrast to research on “redemption” that
documents that once an individual with a prior nonviolent conviction has stayed
crime free for three to four years, that person’s risk of recidivism is no different from
the risk of arrest for the general population.7 Put differently, people are treated as
criminals long after they pose any significant risk of committing further crimes—
making it difficult for many to move on with their lives and achieve basic economic
security, let alone have a shot at upward mobility.
The United States must therefore craft policies to ensure that Americans with
criminal records have a fair shot at making a decent living, providing for their
families, and joining the middle class. This will benefit not only the tens of millions
of individuals who face closed doors due to a criminal record but also their families,
their communities, and the economy as a whole.
President Barack Obama’s administration has been a leader on this important issue.
For example, the Bureau of Justice Administration’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative
has assisted states and cities across the country in reducing correctional spending
and reinvesting the savings in strategies to support re-entry and reduce recidivism.8
The Federal Interagency Reentry Council, established in 2011 by Attorney General
Eric Holder, has brought 20 federal agencies together to coordinate and advance
effective re-entry policies.9 And the president’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative has
charged communities across the country with implementing strategies to close
opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color and to ensure that “all young
people … can reach their full potential, regardless of who are they are, where they
come from, or the circumstances into which they are born.”10 Additionally, states
and cities across the country have enacted policies to alleviate the barriers associated
with having a criminal history.
While these are positive steps, further action is needed at all levels of government.
This report offers a road map for the administration and federal agencies, Congress,
states and localities, employers, and colleges and universities to ensure that a criminal
record no longer presents an intractable barrier to economic security and mobility.

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Bipartisan momentum for criminal justice reform is growing, due in part to the
enormous costs of mass incarceration, as well as an increased focus on evidencebased approaches to public safety. Policymakers and opinion leaders of all political
stripes are calling for sentencing and prison reform, as well as policies that give
people a second chance. Now is the time to find common ground and enact
meaningful solutions to ensure that a criminal record does not consign an individual
to a life of poverty.

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Background
The past four decades have seen an explosion in our nation’s prison population.
Today, the United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in
the world.11

The rise of mass incarceration and hyper-criminalization
Currently, more than 1.5 million Americans are incarcerated in state and federal
prisons, a figure that has quintupled since 1980.12 Adding in jails, the number of
Americans who are behind bars rises to 2.2 million. The U.S. incarceration rate is
more than six times the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and
Development average.13

FIGURE 1

Rise of mass incarceration
The number of Americans behind bars in federal and state prisons has quintupled
since 1980
1,600,000
1,400,000
1,200,000

2013
1,574,700

1,000,000
800,000
600,000
400,000
200,000
0
1925

1950

1975

2000

Source: Source: Analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics data by The Sentencing Project, “Trends in U.S. Corrections” (2013), available at
http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_Trends_in_Corrections_Fact_sheet.pdf.

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In addition to leading the world in incarceration, the United States is also the global
leader in arrests.14 Between 25 percent and 40 percent of American adults have been
arrested by age 23.15 Men—and particularly men of color—are at particular risk:
49 percent of black men and 44 percent of Hispanic men have been arrested by
age 23.16 And the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, estimates that U.S. law
enforcement has made more than one-quarter of a billion arrests in the past 20 years.17
Many arrests never lead to conviction; for example, just half—and in some years,
fewer than half—of adult misdemeanor arrests made in New York City from 2009
to 2013 resulted in conviction.18
Thus, a more apt phrase might be hyper-criminalization—given that many
individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system end up with
criminal records without doing any time in prison, either through arrest without
conviction or sentences for probation or other forms of community supervision.
Changes in sentencing laws and policy, not crime rates, drove this rise in mass
incarceration and hyper-criminalization. Federal policies such as the Sentencing
Reform Act of 1984 and state policies such as three-strikes laws were significant
drivers. Sentencing policies with their roots in the War on Drugs—such as harsh,
mandatory minimum sentences—also played a major role.19
The impact on communities of color is particularly staggering. People of color make
up more than 60 percent of the population behind bars.20 Black men are incarcerated
at a rate six times higher than that of white men, and Latino men at a rate 2.5 times
higher than that of white men.21 A black man in his 20s or 30s is more likely to be
in jail or prison than employed; on any given day, 10 percent of black men in their
30s are incarcerated.22
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, individuals and people living
with HIV are also disproportionately affected by mass incarceration and hypercriminalization. According to recent survey data, 5 percent report having been
incarcerated, and 73 percent report having come into face-to-face contact with the
police during the previous five years.23
Mass incarceration and hyper-criminalization have come at tremendous cost to
the American taxpayer. Total expenditures on corrections at the federal, state, and
local levels exceeded $80 billion in 2010—a 350 percent increase over the past 30
years in real terms.24 When combined with other crime-related expenditures—
such as policing, legal, and judicial services—total spending rises to more than
$260 billion annually.25 The lion’s share of these expenditures falls at the state and
local levels, placing great fiscal burdens on states.
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FIGURE 2

Rising costs and a net loss
Correctional expenditures have quadrupled over the past three decades
State and federal expenditures (in billions of dollars)
60
50
40
30

1982
$15.86

State

20
10
0

GDP loss
annually:
$65 billion*

2012
$6.64

Federal

1982
$1.02
1990

2012
$48.44

2000

2010

* Employment losses due to criminal records resulted in as much as $65 billion in lost gross domestic product output in 2008.
Sources: Author’s calculations are based on Bureau of the Census, Annual Survey of State Government Finances (U.S. Department of
Commerce, 1982–2012), available at https://www.census.gov/govs/state/historical_data.html; Tracey Kyckelhahn, “State Corrections
Expenditures, FY 1982-2010” (Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2014), available at http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/scefy8210.pdf; Nathan James, “The Bureau of Prisons (BOP): Operations and Budget” (Washington: Congressional Research Service, 2014),
available at http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42486.pdf. John Schmitt and Kris Warner, “Ex-offenders and the Labor Market” (Washington:
Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2010), available at http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.pdf.

These trends have profound implications for families and society as well—so much
so that in 2013, “Sesame Street” added a character with an incarcerated father.26
More than half of adult inmates are parents of minor children: 2.6 million, or 1 in
25 American children, had a parent in prison in 2012, up from 350,000 in 1980.27
And more than one in four African American children born in 1990 have had a
parent incarcerated during their childhood.28

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Many U.S. cities criminalize poverty and homelessness
Despite the fact that many U.S. cities have inadequate affordable housing and
shelter beds, a growing array choose to criminalize basic survival behaviors.
According to a 2014 survey of 187 cities conducted by the National Law Center on
Homelessness & Poverty:29
•	 24 percent have city-wide bans on begging, and 74 percent prohibit begging in
particular public places
•	 33 percent have city-wide bans on loitering and vagrancy, and 65 percent prohibit
such activities in particular public places
•	 53 percent prohibit sitting or lying down in particular public places
•	 43 percent prohibit sleeping in vehicles
These policies are not only unduly punitive; they are also a poor use of law enforcement
resources. For example, a 2013 study commissioned by the Utah Division of Housing
and Community Development found that the average annual cost of jail and emergency
room visits for a homeless person was $16,670, compared with $11,000 to provide them
with housing and a social worker for a year.30
What’s more, such policies can set up a vicious cycle. If an individual convicted of one of
these status offenses is unable to pay fines and fees levied as punishment, he can wind
up back in jail for nonpayment. And he ends up with a criminal record, which can make
it even harder for him to obtain housing and employment and to get back on his feet.
As a result, more than half of the homeless population has a history of incarceration.31

Criminal records: The back end of mass incarceration and hypercriminalization
More than 95 percent of individuals in state prisons are expected to return to their
communities at some point.32 More than 600,000 Americans are released from
federal and state prisons each year.33 Nearly 12 million cycle in and out of local
jails each year,34 and still more end up with a criminal record without any period
of incarceration. More than 4.7 million people are currently being “supervised” in
the community, with 3.9 million of these people on probation and 850,000 of
them on parole.35

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Estimates put the number of Americans with criminal records between 70 million
and 100 million.36 Most convictions are for misdemeanors and nonserious
infractions. And many Americans have only arrests without convictions. Yet, as
described in the following sections of this report, having even a minor criminal
record can lead to an array of significant and often lifelong barriers to employment,
housing, education, public assistance, and the ability to build good credit, making
it difficult if not impossible for individuals to achieve economic security.

Definitions of key terms
Criminal history or criminal record: Law enforcement agencies
and courts maintain records of arrests and subsequent dispositions of
criminal cases. These records are made available to third parties in a
variety of ways, including through court records and websites,
state-level criminal record repositories, and commercial vendors.
Expungement: A process, typically administered by courts, for
eliminating public access to criminal records; it is also commonly called
“sealing.” It usually requires the filing of a petition and an individualized
determination; in rare cases, it may be automatic. Law enforcement
agencies typically retain access to criminal records after expungement.
Rules vary across states.
Felony: A more serious criminal offense that is typically punishable
by incarceration of more than one year.

Misdemeanor: A minor criminal offense that is typically punishable
by incarceration of one year or less.
Nonconviction record: Any court or law enforcement record that
pertains to an arrest that did not result in a conviction, such as prosecution or court dismissal of charges, acquittal, or reversal upon appeal.

Parole: Provisional release of an incarcerated person, prior to the
completion of his or her maximum sentence and subject to certain
court-mandated conditions. Violation of these conditions can result
in reincarceration.
Probation: A period of supervision that carries certain courtmandated conditions and that commonly serves as an alternative
to incarceration. Violation of the court’s conditions can result
in incarceration.
Re-entry: The return to society after a period of incarceration or
following a criminal history.
Nonserious infraction: A criminal offense so minor that it is
generally prosecutable without a trial; it is also sometimes called a
“summary offense.” Nonserious offenses are commonly punishable by
a fine instead of incarceration. Common examples are disorderly
conduct, vagrancy, and loitering.
Source: Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary: Second Edition (Clark, NJ: The Lawbook Exchange,
Ltd., 1995).

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Barriers to employment
A generation ago, access to the criminal record information of job applicants was
unusual. Today, however, background checks are ubiquitous: An estimated 87
percent of employers conduct criminal background checks on their applicants.37
As a result, criminal records have become an intractable barrier to employment for
tens of millions of Americans.

“Since the time of my conviction, I have come to realize that one wrong decision can
cause a lifetime of pain. I realize that society is not as forgiving and that because of
my actions, I am not able to utilize the educational knowledge that I have gained …
I have applied for and been offered many prominent job opportunities. However,
when my criminal background comes back, I lose the chance and nothing I can say
will make any difference.” — Ronald Lewis, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania38

Employer rejections of people with criminal records cause deep
and widespread joblessness and poverty
A recent study by the National Institute of Justice confirmed that a criminal record
is a powerful hiring disincentive.39 Job seekers currently on probation or parole or
who have ever been incarcerated are most likely to be refused consideration for a
position.40 And a majority of employers surveyed were unwilling to hire applicants
who had served prison time.41 Most alarmingly, the study found that having any arrest
during one’s life decreases employment opportunities more than any other employment-related stigma, such as long-term unemployment, receipt of public assistance,
or having a GED instead of a high school diploma.42 No criminal record is too old
or too inconsequential to serve as a barrier to employment, including minor offenses
graded below the level of misdemeanors and arrests without conviction.43

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As a result, some 60 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed
one year after their release.44 And for those who do find steady employment, a
history of incarceration is associated with a substantial reduction in earnings.
Formerly incarcerated men work nine fewer weeks per year and take home 40
percent less pay annually, resulting in an average earnings loss of nearly $179,000
by age 48.45
Men of color are hit especially hard. Studies find that white male and female job
seekers with records have better employment chances than black or Hispanic
applicants with records.46 But regardless of race, a person who has been incarcerated
has a lesser chance of getting an interview than does a job seeker with identical
qualifications but no record.47
Job seekers with records and their families are not the only ones who suffer.
Paradoxically, employers are losing countless qualified and motivated workers as a
result of applying overly broad criminal record exclusion policies. In addition, the
significant public safety consequences that stem from the widespread unemployment
of people with criminal records cannot be ignored, as postincarceration employment
has powerful anti-recidivism effects.48
Moreover, the impact on the national economy is substantial. Analysis by the
Center for Economic Policy Research estimates that in 2008, the United States
lost as many as 1.7 million workers due to employment barriers for people with
criminal records—resulting in a staggering 0.9 percentage-point reduction in the
nation’s employment rate.49 Its analysis estimates the resulting loss in gross
domestic product to be as much as $65 billion per year.
On the flip side, research indicates that removing barriers to employment for job
seekers with criminal records would yield tremendous economic benefits through
increased earnings, higher taxpayer revenues from employment, and avoided costs
in reduced recidivism.50

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“When I was released, the jail told me to get a 40 hour a week job. I am trying hard to
get a 20 hour a week job. When I went in I had a job, but I had to start all over.”
“It’s a challenge everywhere. When you come home from jail … [a] job can’t
complete. 10-20 hour jobs. There are no 600 dollar apartments anymore. When you
come home you aren’t an asset to your family, you are a liability. Food costs increase,
housing, your kids, clothes. Odds are if you don’t find a job, you’ll go back to doing
what you know. It’s easier to get a gun and drugs than a job.”
– Comments shared during focus groups convened by Neighborhood Legal
Services, Inc., Washington, D.C., November 201351

Existing hiring protections must be improved
While no federal law is targeted specifically to employer hiring policies based on
criminal records, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act—the federal law that prohibits
race discrimination in employment—plays an important role. It bars employer
practices that have a racially disparate impact, unless those practices are job related
and justified as a business necessity.52 Given that blacks and Hispanics are more
likely than whites to be involved in the criminal justice system, legal precedent
going back to the 1970s holds that employer rejections based on criminal records
can violate Title VII.53
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, which enforces
Title VII, has released guidance on employer consideration of criminal records,
going back to the 1980s, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was
the EEOC chair.54 These guidelines were updated and expanded in a bipartisan
revision released in 2012.55 The 2012 guidance lays out important standards,
including that arrests not leading to convictions generally cannot be considered;
employer demands for clean records—meaning employer requirements that job
candidates have no record as a condition of hire—are illegal; and that certain factors
must be considered, such as the seriousness of the crime, the time that has elapsed
since the conviction, and the nature of the job.56 The 2012 guidance also encourages
individualized assessments of factors such as employment history, rehabilitation,
and age at the time of conviction.57 The U.S. Department of Labor has issued similar
guidance for federal contractors58 and the public workforce system.59

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The EEOC’s 2012 guidance has been a crucial step forward in protecting workers
with criminal records from unjust rejections. It has also sharpened employer
awareness of the legal limitations on their use of background screening. However,
enforcement can be a challenge because racially disparate impact must be proven
in litigation.
In a positive trend, several states, such as New York60 and Pennsylvania,61 have
enacted “colorblind” laws that prohibit employer rejection based on a criminal
record unless there is a nexus between the job seeker’s criminal record and the job
being sought.62 The EEOC’s guidelines could and should be codified to apply to all
job seekers regardless of race. In the meantime, increased education—for both
employers and job seekers—about the EEOC’s guidance is essential.63

Fair-chance hiring policies increase employment of people with criminal records
In its 90-day progress report to the president, the My Brother’s Keeper
Task Force lays out a comprehensive strategy to reduce opportunity
gaps faced by boys and young men of color and to make sure that all
young people have the chance to succeed.64 The report highlights the
importance of fair-chance hiring to economic opportunity, stating:

•	 Prohibiting questions about arrests that did not lead to convictions

Our youth and communities suffer when hiring practices
unnecessarily disqualify candidates based on past mistakes.
We should implement reforms to promote successful
reentry, including encouraging hiring practices, such as
“Ban the Box,” which give[s] applicants a fair chance and
allows employers the opportunity to judge individual job
candidates on their merits as they reenter the workforce.

•	 Providing balancing criteria for employer consideration of criminal

To date, 13 states and 70 municipalities have enacted fair-chance
hiring laws that incorporate a variety of practices that help level the
playing field for people with criminal records.65 Six of these states and
several major cities apply these policies to private and public
employers.66 Common elements include:
•	 Banning the box on job applications that asks about criminal
records and postponing the background check until after an
applicant is being seriously considered for hire

•	 Permitting applicants to review their background checks for accuracy
•	 Allowing applicants to provide evidence of rehabilitation

records
Early results of such policies have been promising. For instance, after
adopting a fair-chance hiring policy, the city of Durham, North Carolina,
has increased its percentage of new hires with criminal records from
less than 2.5 percent in 2011 to 15.5 percent in 2014.67 Minneapolis,
Minnesota, has seen similarly positive results: Banning the box on job
applications resulted in more than half of job seekers with criminal
records being hired.68 And in Atlanta, Georgia, a fair-chance hiring
policy led to people with criminal records making up fully 10 percent
of all city hires between March and October 2013.69
Additionally, some private employers—such as Target Corporation,
one of the nation’s largest employers—have removed criminal history
questions from their job applications.70

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Cleaning up a criminal record removes barriers to employment
Cleaning up a criminal record—often called expungement or sealing—generally
addresses most of the barriers discussed in this report, though elimination of
employment barriers is the most frequently cited reason for record clearing.
States vary widely as to which types of offenses may be expunged or sealed—
and even as to the nomenclature used. While the vast majority of states permit
nonconviction records and juvenile adjudications to be expunged, fewer states permit
misdemeanor or lower convictions to be expunged, and fewer still permit felony
convictions from being cleared.71 Generally, an individual seeking expungement
must serve a waiting period without reoffending.72 The waiting period varies by
state but tends to be longer the more serious the offense.73
Expungements and similar remedies are seldom automatic. Typically, a person
seeking to clear a record must file a petition and appear in court. Having a lawyer
can be essential, yet the need far exceeds available resources,74 leaving many in
need unable to clear their records due to lack of representation.
In a positive trend, according to a 2014 Vera Institute of Justice review of states’ laws,
23 states—ranging from Arkansas to Mississippi to California—broadened their
expungement laws between 2009 and 2014.75 Reforms included extending eligibility
to additional classes of offenses, reducing waiting periods, clarifying the effect of the
expungement or sealing, and altering the burden of proof to facilitate expungement.76
However, despite the exponential increase in federal criminal prosecutions that
resulted from the War on Drugs, there is no general judicial mechanism to expunge
federal cases. Not even federal nonconviction records, including acquittals, may be
expunged.77 A presidential pardon process exists, but in recent years it has rarely
been used and has been subject to criticism.78 Federal law thus lags far behind the
states in this regard.

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Accuracy of criminal record information provided to employers
must be improved
Understandably, employers and other users of background checks rely upon the
information presented there. Often, however, that information is not accurate or
up to date.
In 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released approximately 17 million
background checks for employment purposes, a sixfold increase from the decade
before.79 These reports are notoriously inaccurate: An estimated 600,000 job seekers
received an inaccurate FBI check in 2012.80 Notably, FBI background checks
frequently fail to provide the outcome of cases. The states have a role in causing
this problem, as they often fail to provide case outcomes to the FBI, despite being
required by law to do so within 120 days.81 Given that many cases do not result in
convictions or are resolved on lesser charges, having a criminal record that has not
been updated to reflect the outcome of charges can be highly prejudicial.
Other public sources of criminal record information, such as state criminal record
repositories and court records of criminal cases, often also contain inaccuracies. One
particularly egregious type of inaccuracy is commonly referred to as criminal identity
theft, in which a person is saddled with the criminal record of another person who
has falsely used his or her name and other identifiers when arrested. Many states
do not provide a mechanism to correct this problem, causing a lifetime of misery
for the estimated 400,000 Americans per year who encounter this obstacle.82
The commercial screening industry produces far more background checks than the
FBI. One recent report found that three of the largest screeners alone produced 56
million reports in a 12-month period.83 Commercial screeners’ background checks
are frequently inaccurate or misleading, particularly when they simply report data
from a computer run and do not review or verify it.84 Common errors include
reporting mismatches of cases belonging to someone else, reporting expunged
cases, and failure to report outcomes of old arrests.85
The Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, governs background checks produced
by commercial screeners. The FCRA’s legal standards can be read to prohibit the
common errors of the commercial screeners. But the statute was enacted in 1970,86
primarily to govern the generation and use of credit reports—and long before the
rise of the industry that now sells background checks. Promulgating FCRA
regulations that specifically govern criminal background checks would establish
clear standards, which would enable both compliance by commercial screeners
and enforcement through private litigation.
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Sarah’s story
Sarah, 28 years old, is desperate to find a job to provide adequately for her daughter
and herself. But her arrest record stands in the way of employment.
In 2011, Sarah had moved out of the apartment that she shared with her boyfriend
and friends. One day, her former boyfriend came to visit their daughter. Federal
agents burst in to arrest her boyfriend for theft of information from credit cards, a
federal offense. Sarah had no idea prior to that day that her boyfriend was involved
in any such thing. The four people who had lived in the apartment were all arrested
and charged, including Sarah and two other people she did not know; they had
apparently worked with her former boyfriend in the scheme.
The case finally went to trial in February 2012. Even before the trial ended, the judge
entered an order of acquittal for Sarah because of the lack of evidence against
her. The other defendants were convicted.
That should have been the end of Sarah’s extremely bad luck. But it is not. Even
though she was found not guilty, her arrest record has left her unable to find a job.
She remains without the means to provide for herself and her daughter.87

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Barriers to housing
Safe, decent, and affordable housing is foundational to the economic security of
individuals and families. It also has powerful anti-recidivism effects for people
with criminal histories. Yet many individuals are released from incarceration with
no plans of where they will live, and close to one-third expect to go to homeless
shelters upon release.88 And a minor criminal record—including even an arrest
without conviction—can serve as an absolute obstacle to housing. Lack of stable
housing can make every step of rebuilding one’s life—and, particularly, securing
gainful employment—that much more difficult. What’s more, “one strike and
you’re out” housing policies can stand in the way of family reunification.

Barriers to public housing: One strike and you’re out
Our nation’s two major housing assistance programs are the Section 8 Housing
Choice Voucher Program and public housing. While both are federally funded
and governed by federal law and policies, they are administered by local public
housing authorities, or PHAs, which enjoy broad discretion in setting policy and
screening prospective tenants for eligibility.
Federal housing law includes a narrow, mandatory ban on access to public housing
for people with certain types of convictions.89 But it also grants local housing
authorities broad discretion to deny or evict on the basis of any type of “criminal
activity.” Thus, federal law effectively provides a floor, which many PHAs opt to
exceed by taking their discretionary authority to the extreme. For example, many
local housing authorities will evict or deny housing to an individual or even to an
entire household if one household member has an arrest without conviction or
pending criminal charges.

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Federal law requires local PHAs to implement a lifetime ban on public housing for
individuals who: 90
1.	Have been convicted of producing methamphetamine at a public housing
property
2.	Are subject to a lifetime sex offender registry
PHAs are also required to deny an application for public housing when any member
of the household has been evicted from public housing due to “drug-related criminal
activity” within the past three years.91
Additionally, federal law gives PHAs discretion to evict or deny housing if any
member of the household is or has been engaged in within “reasonable time” of
application: 92
1.	Drug-related activity
2.	Violent criminal activity
3.	“Other criminal activity which may threaten the health, safety, or right to peaceful
enjoyment of the premises by other residents or persons residing in the immediate vicinity” or that of the owner or employees on public housing premises
Many local PHAs construe “other criminal activity” extremely broadly, barring
individuals from housing even based on an arrest without conviction. Furthermore,
there is tremendous variation in local PHAs’ interpretation of reasonable time.

As a consequence, public housing is out of reach for many people with criminal
records. Additionally, many PHAs’ restrictive interpretation of the “one-strike”
policy can also present a serious barrier to family reunification when a parent or
family member returns home from incarceration. It can also lead to homelessness
for entire families: When a family living in public housing permits a family
member with a criminal record to stay with them, the entire family can end up
being evicted.

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Local efforts to remove barriers to public housing for
people with criminal records
In a 2011 letter to PHAs, former Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, Secretary Shaun
Donovan and former Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandra Henriquez
encouraged authorities to reform overly restrictive policies and grant admission to people
with criminal records “when appropriate.”93 They reiterated the importance of housing to
re-entry:
As President Obama recently made clear, this is an Administration that believes in
the importance of second chances—that people who have paid their debt to
society deserve the opportunity to become productive citizens and caring parents,
to set the past aside and embrace the future. Part of that support means helping
ex-offenders gain access to one of the most fundamental building blocks of a
stable life—a place to live.94
Some PHAs are beginning to reform their policies accordingly. For instance, in 2013, New
Orleans’ housing authority reformed its policy to reduce discrimination on the basis of a
criminal record. Under the new policy, the housing authority will consider each applicant’s
case on an individual basis and assess the nature and gravity of the offense, as well as the
time that has elapsed since, among other factors. In announcing the reforms, the housing
authority stated:
Other than the two federally required categories, no [housing] applicant will be
automatically barred from receiving housing assistance because of his or her
criminal background. … We are taking the necessary steps to … make sure that
those with criminal activity in their past who now seek productive lifestyles have a
shot at a new beginning.95
Additionally, in 2013, New York City announced a pilot program to permit 150 returning
citizens to enter public housing with their families or to rejoin their families in public
housing, while working with social service providers to seek employment, participate in
needed mental health and substance abuse counseling, and take other steps to rebuild their
lives.96 While New York’s initiative is modest in size, it nonetheless constitutes a positive step
forward.

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Similar to Title VII, discussed previously in the employment context, the federal Fair
Housing Act—enacted as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act—prohibits housing
discrimination on the basis of race, including practices that have a racially disparate
impact. HUD, which enforces the Fair Housing Act, should issue guidance similar to
the previously discussed EEOC guidance on employer consideration of criminal
records, laying out clear standards for how and when PHAs and private landlords
may consider a housing applicant or tenant’s criminal record. Mirroring the EEOC
guidance, HUD guidance should include the stipulations that:
1.	 Arrests not leading to convictions generally cannot be considered
2.	 Landlords cannot require that tenants have no criminal history as a condition
of housing
3.	 Certain factors relevant to desistance from crime must be considered, such as
the nature and seriousness of the crime, the time that has elapsed since the
conviction, evidence of rehabilitation, letters of recommendation, and the
person’s history as a tenant elsewhere

Private housing is out of reach for many people with records
A criminal record can serve as a major barrier to private housing as well. An estimated
four out of five landlords employ background checks to screen out prospective
tenants with criminal records.97 Many landlords utilize credit checks as well,
presenting an additional barrier to housing for many people with criminal records.98
Many landlords refuse to rent to individuals with criminal records based on concerns
about public safety or the perception that tenants with criminal histories are less likely
to meet rental obligations.99 Many tenant-screening websites fan the flames through
fear-inducing warnings about landlords opening themselves up to potential lawsuits
by renting to a tenant with a criminal history who may later harm another tenant.100
However, a growing body of research finds that these concerns are misplaced. An
array of studies finds that criminal history is not predictive of successful tenancy.101
And as previously discussed, the likelihood of recidivism declines sharply over time.
Additionally, concerns about potential “negligent renting” liability are overblown: In
no state are landlords required to screen tenants for criminal history, and only one
state appellate court has found potential liability for a landlord who rented to a
tenant with a criminal history who subsequently caused harm to another tenant.102
Moreover, stable housing is associated with reduced likelihood of recidivism.
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As noted above, the Fair Housing Act provides limits on overly broad bans on
people with criminal records because of the racially disparate impact.
Unfortunately, application of the Fair Housing Act in the context of housing
discrimination against people with criminal records lags well behind the application
of Title VII in the employment context, discussed previously. In the absence of
HUD guidance on landlord consideration of criminal records, enforcement has
been virtually nonexistent.
But in a positive step, some states have recently taken action to prohibit housing
discrimination on the basis of a criminal record by enacting laws that do not
require proof of racial discrimination and that establish specific rights. A recently
enacted Oregon law provides a model. Under a statute that went into effect in
January 2014, a landlord may not refuse to rent to a tenant on the basis of an arrest
record or certain types of criminal convictions.103 Oregon’s law further provides
that prospective tenants refused housing must be given a notice of adverse action
stating the reason or reasons why they were denied housing. Additionally, the
cities of San Francisco, California, and Newark, New Jersey, have also passed
fair-chance housing policies.104

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Blanket ban on housing for people with criminal records
disrupts re-entry
In October 2014, the first prominent lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act that alleged racially
disparate impact based on a landlord’s policy of excluding people with criminal convictions
from renting an apartment was filed by The Fortune Society, a New York City re-entry program,
against the Sand Castle, a multibuilding apartment complex with more than 900 units.105
The lawsuit alleges that the Sand Castle refused to provide housing for The Fortune Society’s
clients because of a policy of automatically excluding any person with a conviction from
living in its apartments.
The Fortune Society provides comprehensive re-entry services to 5,000 clients per year. One
of its primary tasks is to provide housing to its clients and their families. It operates a housing
pipeline, in which re-entering people move from emergency housing to temporary housing
and, finally, to permanent housing. The organization works with more than 100 landlords
throughout the city and is constantly looking to develop more housing sites for its clients, a
challenge in light of the cost and scarcity of housing in New York City.
In May 2013, The Fortune Society negotiated leases for 25 of its clients to live in the Sand
Castle. The complex was seen as a desirable placement because the rent was affordable, the
neighborhood was safe and diverse, and public transportation was accessible. The 25 people
lived in the complex without incident.
However, the Sand Castle’s management had apparently been unaware that The Fortune
Society was a service provider for re-entering people when it entered into the 25 leases. The
lawsuit alleges that when the Sand Castle’s management company learned that The Fortune
Society tenants had criminal records, it stated that the complex does not rent to people with
criminal records and refused to provide any further apartments. Subsequent attempts by
The Fortune Society to rent additional units for its clients were rebuffed for the same stated
reason, even though there were vacancies.
Because the Sand Castle refused to rent any further apartments to The Fortune Society’s
clients, the program’s entire housing pipeline was disrupted. People could not move from
temporary housing into permanent housing, nor could they move from emergency housing
into temporary housing. Those who would have been able to move into emergency units
were left homeless.
The Fortune Society notes that the Sand Castle’s blanket ban on renting to people with
criminal records would have affected some of the organization’s most successful former
clients, including its senior vice president and a Manhattan Housing Court judge.
This lawsuit will be closely watched. Depending on its outcome, it could pave the way for
many more lawsuits alleging housing discrimination against people with criminal records in
the future.

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Barriers to public assistance
When individuals are released from correctional facilities, they commonly are sent
back into the community with a few dollars, a bus ticket, and a few days’ worth of
needed medications.106 Many returning citizens have no housing to return to—
and, as discussed previously, would risk family members’ eviction from public
housing if they went to live with them. Given the great challenge of securing
employment with a criminal record, finding a job is unlikely to happen overnight.
Thus, many need to turn to public assistance in order to survive while seeking to
transition to self-sufficiency.

Lifetime ban on receiving public assistance leads to deprivation,
hunger, and hardship and impedes re-entry
In many U.S. states, even meager public assistance is out of reach for people with
certain types of criminal records. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity
Reconciliation Act of 1996, or PRWORA, includes a lifetime ban on receiving
federal public assistance for individuals with felony drug convictions.107 Under
this provision, individuals who are otherwise eligible for Temporary Assistance
for Needy Families, or TANF, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,
or SNAP—formerly known as food stamps—are disqualified from receiving these
types of assistance for life if they were convicted of a felony drug offense. The law
gives states the option to modify or waive the bans, and by 2001, eight states and
the District of Columbia had opted out of the bans altogether, and another 20 had
modified them.108 Several more have followed suit in the decade since. Yet the
majority of states continue to enforce the lifetime ban in whole or in part for
TANF, SNAP, or both.
This outdated and harsh policy has serious consequences for individuals and families.
It deprives struggling families of nutrition assistance and pushes them even deeper
into poverty at precisely the moment when they are seeking to regain their footing.
According to a recent study of people recently released from incarceration in

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Texas, California, and Connecticut, levels of food insecurity among recently released
individuals “mirror the magnitude of food insecurity in developing countries.”109
Moreover, when people cannot meet their basic needs, they are more likely to turn
to risky and illegal activities to survive. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine
found that women denied nutrition assistance due to the felony drug ban are at
higher risk not only of food insecurity but also of turning to prostitution and other
risky behaviors in order to obtain money for food.110
Women are especially hard hit by the felony drug ban: Drug offenses accounted
for half of the increase in the state female prison population between the mid-1980s
and mid-1990s, compared with just one-third of the increase for men over the same
period.111 According to The Sentencing Project, an estimated 180,000 women were
subject to the TANF ban in 2013 in the 12 states with the most punitive policies.112
Women of color are effectively at double jeopardy, as racial disparities in enforcement
of drug laws put people of color at much greater risk of having a drug conviction.
In addition to causing hunger and hardship, denying SNAP and TANF can prevent
individuals from obtaining needed mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Mental health and substance abuse programs, particularly residential treatment
programs, often rely on funding from public assistance to pay individuals’ room
and board.113 Without these funds, programs may be forced to turn people away,
reduce services, or even close altogether. People returning from incarceration are
especially likely to need these services: More than half of inmates in prisons and
jails have mental health disorders, three-quarters of those returning from prison
have a history of substance abuse, and nearly half of female inmates report a history
of being physically or sexually abused.114 A growing body of evidence indicates
that connecting returning citizens who have mental health and substance abuse
disorders with needed treatment can lower recidivism.115

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California and Missouri mitigate harsh lifetime bans
on basic assistance
California and Missouri are the two most recent states to join the ranks of those that
have modified or opted out of the harsh felony drug bans on TANF and SNAP. In June
2014, the California Legislature passed S.B. 1029, removing the lifetime ban on
CALWORKs and CALFresh. The new policy will go into effect on April 1, 2015. Also in
June 2014, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (R) signed S.B. 680 into law, modifying the state’s
implementation of the federal lifetime ban on SNAP to permit people with felony
drug convictions to qualify for SNAP while they participate in or after they complete
an approved drug treatment program.116 Individuals determined not to need
treatment must be in compliance with or have already completed the terms of their
sentence. They must also pay for and pass a drug test.117

Connecting returning citizens with needed supports facilitates
successful re-entry and reduces recidivism
One way to ensure that returning citizens are able to access the supports and
services they need is through “prerelease” application procedures, which enable
federal and state agencies to connect incarcerated individuals with needed benefits
such as Medicaid and SNAP in the months prior to release. Prerelease efforts
typically involve collaboration by several state agencies—corrections agencies,
mental health and substance abuse agencies, and the agencies that administer
Medicaid and/or SNAP—as well as localities that operate jails. The prerelease
model mitigates the problem of returning citizens re-entering their communities
without the basics they need for successful re-entry—such as health insurance so
they can obtain needed medications, mental health and substance abuse treatment,
and nutrition assistance so they have the means to put food on the table.118
A related but separate solution is how states treat individuals’ Medicaid coverage
in the event of incarceration. As noted in a 2004 letter from the Department of
Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to state
Medicaid directors, states do not have to terminate an individual’s Medicaid
coverage upon incarceration; rather, they can suspend eligibility when an individual
is incarcerated and reactivate it upon release, sparing the need for reapplication.119
This practice is a win-win for both state budgets and individuals, as it allows states
to save money associated with the churn of termination and new applications,

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while ensuring that incarcerated individuals have access to needed health coverage
upon release. This approach holds promise for reducing the number of inmates
who return to prison or jail by ensuring that they have necessary medical care and
other crucial supportive services they need for successful re-entry, thus reducing
state costs. At least 12 states currently have policies in place to suspend rather than
terminate Medicaid coverage for inmates.120

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Barriers to education and training
Roughly two out of five prison and jail inmates lack a high school diploma or GED.121
Among those who have a high school diploma or GED, an additional 46 percent
lack postsecondary education.122 A 2003 study found that about 16 percent are
below basic literacy levels, and 3 percent are completely illiterate in English.123
Low levels of education and literacy make it difficult to compete in the labor market,
even without a criminal record. Among non-Hispanic white and African American
males, the employment rate fell from 96 percent in 1970 to 75 percent in 2011;
during the same period, earnings for these groups dropped by more than 50
percent.124 The difference in median earnings between an individual with a high
school diploma and someone with a bachelor’s degree is more than $23,000 per
year, a 70 percent increase.125

Prison education and training programs increase employment and
reduce recidivism
A recent study by the RAND Corporation—the largest-ever analysis of correctional
education—offers strong evidence that prison education and training programs
reduce recidivism, increase employment, and yield cost savings126 The study found
that inmates who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely
to return to prison than those who did not.127 Employment rates after release were
13 percent higher for inmates who participated in academic or vocational education
programs and 28 percent higher for those who participated in vocational training.
Furthermore, these programs were found to be highly cost effective: Every dollar
spent on prison education was found to save $4 to $5 in incarceration costs during
the next three years, when recidivism is most likely.
Despite their cost effectiveness, prison education and training programs are relatively
scarce. According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office,
the number of federal inmates on waiting lists to participate in basic literacy programs
nearly equals the number participating in such programs.128 And in 1995, Congress
removed access to Pell Grants for inmates—causing the number of postsecondary
prison education programs to drop by more than 90 percent by 2005.129
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Barriers to financial aid put higher education and training out of reach
As noted above, since 1995, currently incarcerated individuals have been ineligible for
Pell Grants, putting prison education and training out of reach for many inmates who
wish to increase their employability and chances of successful re-entry. Additionally,
formerly incarcerated individuals—and even those with criminal records who have
never been incarcerated—can face barriers to education and training.
In 1998, the Higher Education Act was amended to prohibit anyone with a
misdemeanor or felony drug conviction from receiving federal financial aid.130
Between 1998 and 2006, an estimated 200,000 students were denied financial aid
under this provision.131 In a positive step, the ban was modified in 2006 to prohibit
receipt of federal aid only when a drug offense occurs while the student is receiving
aid.132 And more recently, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or
FAFSA, has been amended to no longer ask about criminal convictions.133
Federal law also includes a lifetime ban for individuals with felony drug convictions
from receiving the American Opportunity Tax Credit, or AOTC. The AOTC
serves as a complement to Pell Grants, providing qualifying students and families
with a partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 per academic year to offset
some of their educational expenses.134
Given the rising cost of college tuition, a denial of federal financial aid can put college
out of reach for many students. Research indicates that students denied federal
financial aid due to drug convictions are significantly less likely to enroll in and
less likely to graduate from college. Those who do enroll in college typically face a
two-year or longer gap between high school graduation and college matriculation.135
Due to disparities in arrests and sentencing—and, particularly, in enforcement of
drug laws—students of color are disproportionately affected. In every year between
1980 and 2007, African American adults were arrested for drug charges at rates
between 2.8 and 5.5 times higher than that of white adults.136

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Pathways from prison to postsecondary education
Led by the Vera Institute of Justice and with support from several leading philanthropies,
the Pathways Project is a five-year effort currently underway to provide three states
with incentive funding and technical support to boost access to prison education. It
also, through a prison-to-community continuum model, increases access to higher
education and supportive re-entry services for individuals who have recently been
released from incarceration. Education and training programs are designed to align
with local labor-market trends. The participating states are Michigan, New Jersey, and
North Carolina. The project is a partnership between colleges, prisons, parole and
probation officials, local employers, and community leaders. The initiative is being
evaluated by the RAND Corporation and the Vera Institute’s cost-benefit analysis
unit, with the goal of building an “evidence-based case that creates momentum for
systems change and spurs national replication and long-term public investment.”137

College application process presents barriers to admission and enrollment
In addition to barriers to financial aid, the college application process itself may
serve as a barrier. A 2009 survey found that 66 percent of colleges ask about criminal
history or conduct criminal background checks during the application process.138
While not all colleges that collect this information consider it in the admissions
process, less than half report having written policies in place for how to handle the
criminal background information that is collected, and only 40 percent train
admissions staff in how to interpret this information. For those that do consider it
in admissions, a wide array of criminal records can be viewed negatively despite
having little if any relevance to public safety, such as arrests that did not lead to
conviction, drug and alcohol offenses, and low-level misdemeanor convictions.
In recognition of the barriers that this can present to higher education, several
New York colleges recently announced that under an agreement with the state
Attorney General’s Office, they would be removing overly broad criminal history
questions from their applications. Announcing the change, New York State Attorney
General Eric Schneiderman stated that, “An arrest or police stop that did not result
in a conviction, or a criminal record that was sealed or expunged, should not—
indeed must not—be a standard question on a college application. Such a question
can serve only to discourage New Yorkers from seeking a higher education.”139
Under the agreement, a criminal conviction will be considered only if it “indicates
that the individual poses a threat to public safety or property, or if the convictions
are relevant to some aspect of the academic program or student responsibilities.”140
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Barriers to economic security and
financial empowerment
Building savings, reducing debt, and having decent credit are vital to financial
stability and upward economic mobility. Yet criminal justice fines and fees, as well
as crushing child support arrearages, can hobble individuals’ chances at re-entry at
precisely the moment when they are seeking to get back on their feet.

Criminal justice debt keeps returning citizens from getting back on
their feet
In a growing nationwide trend, states and localities have increasingly shifted to a
system of “offender-funded justice”—funding their law enforcement and court
systems through fines and fees levied on individuals involved with the criminal
justice system.141 In an example that has received significant recent attention, the
city of Ferguson, Missouri, relied on rising municipal court fines to make up a
whopping 20 percent of its $12.75 million budget in 2013.142
Examples include various types of “user fees” that get tacked onto a conviction,
public defender fees for defendants who exercise their right to counsel, and
“pay-to-stay” fees to offset the costs of incarceration, among many, many others.
Many states and localities assess late-payment fees, steep collection fees, and even
fees for entering an installment payment plan. Total criminal justice debts can rise
into the hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of dollars.143
These criminal justice debts act to compound the collateral consequences of a
criminal record and transform punishment from a temporary experience into a
long-term, even lifelong status. In many states, individuals are not eligible to clean
up their criminal records until they have paid off all criminal debts.144 Outstanding
criminal debt can also stand in the way of public assistance, housing, employment,
and access to credit.145 Moreover, while debtor’s prison was long ago declared
unconstitutional, missing a payment can be a path back to jail in many states.146

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Unlike consumer debt, criminal debt is unlikely to be dischargeable in bankruptcy147
and is frequently not subject to statutes of limitations.148 Inability to pay can result
in late fees, interest fees, payment-plan fees, and steep collection fees, and criminal
debt can be subject to collection tactics such as wage garnishment.149
While these fees may seem a tempting source of revenue to states and localities
seeking to close budget gaps, they are being levied on a population that is by and
large unable to pay. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of criminal defendants in
the United States are poor enough to qualify for a public defender, and between
15 percent and 27 percent of people released from prison expect to go to a
homeless shelter upon release.150 As noted previously, as many as 60 percent of
formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed a year after release.151 A
study of court clerks in Florida revealed that just 9 percent of criminal debts were
expected to be collected.152 And a study in Washington state found that formerly
incarcerated men face criminal debts that equal 36 percent to 60 percent of their
annual incomes; even if they paid $100 per month—constituting 11 percent to 15
percent of their monthly earnings—they would remain significantly indebted 10
years later.153

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State and local best practices to alleviate crushing criminal justice debts
Massachusetts: Impact analysis
Massachusetts’ recent use of impact analysis prior to instituting a new
jail fee demonstrates how a thorough analysis of a proposed criminal
fee can be a win-win for state budgets, as well as for individuals who
would face criminal debts. In 2010, the Massachusetts Legislature
created a special commission to study the impact of a proposed jail fee.
The commission considered factors such as expected revenue
generation, the cost of administering the fees, the impact of the fees on
inmates and on prisoner work programs, and waiver of the fees for
indigent individuals. The commission ultimately concluded that such a
fee would create a “host of negative and unintended consequences,”
such as increased financial burdens on inmates and their families and
additional obstacles to successful re-entry. Following the commission’s
recommendation, the legislature decided not to impose the new fee.154

Washington state: Waivers of interest
In Washington state, interest on criminal debts accrues at the rate of
12 percent per year even during incarceration.158 Criminal debts and
crushing interest rates can place serious burdens on formerly
incarcerated people: For example, one Washington state resident
entered prison with $35,000 in debt and upon release found his debt
had risen to more than $100,000. After observing these costly
impacts, Columbia Legal Services partnered with the American Civil
Liberties Union and the Washington Defender Association to
advocate successfully for legislation to permit the waiver of interest
accrued during incarceration. As a result of this legislation, formerly
incarcerated Washingtonians can now petition for a waiver of the
interest accrued on their nonrestitution criminal debts during their
period of incarceration.159

Philadelphia: Write-off of uncollectible debt
In 2010, the Philadelphia courts announced a city-wide effort to
collect criminal justice debts back to the early 1970s, despite a long
and widely known history of poor record keeping. One in five of the
city’s residents were assessed as owing these debts, some of which
were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to city
officials, 70 percent of those facing collections were low income,
unemployed, elderly, disabled, and/or receiving public assistance155—
and the city was described by advocates and the media as trying to
get “blood from a stone.”156 After four years of widely criticized
collection efforts, city and court officials ultimately announced in
mid-2014 the cancellation of certain types of debts older than 2010.157

The Clapham Set: An alternative workforce-development model
The Clapham Set, a pilot project operated in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, from 2008 to 2011, provides a model of a voluntary
workforce-development program that supports successful re-entry
and allows individuals to have their criminal debts lessened as a
reward for completing the program. Founded by a former prosecutor—in partnership with the local courts and nonprofit re-entry
service providers—the program helped young court-involved men
develop resumes, complete job training, participate in job interviews,
and attend mental health or substance abuse treatment. Participants
who successfully completed the program received credit toward their
outstanding criminal debts.160

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Child support enforcement can impede re-entry and weaken
family ties
Child support represents an important contribution to the well-being of children
who no longer reside with both parents. However, unaffordable child support
obligations can also serve as a major driver of postincarceration debt. More than
half of incarcerated Americans are parents of minor children.161 Many enter with
child support orders in place. While policies vary from state to state, incarceration
is not a permissible basis for tolling child support orders in 21 states, meaning that
a parent who is behind bars will accumulate sizable arrears—and interest—despite
having little to no income with which to make payments while incarcerated.162
Upon release, child support debts can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. For
example, a Massachusetts study found that in 2004, the average parent entered
prison with, on average, $10,543 in child support arrears. If those individuals
remained incarcerated until their expected release date, each would accumulate,
on average, an additional $20,461 in child support debt.163 Interest and penalty
charges would add about $9,400 more, bringing total child support debt upon
release to more than $40,000 for the average inmate. A study of Colorado inmates
yielded similar findings and estimated that the average inmate would experience a
63 percent increase in arrears while incarcerated.164 Incarcerated parents are likely
to end up with similarly crushing debts in the other 19 states that do not toll child
support orders for incarceration.
Moreover, as noted previously, many inmates leaving prison have poor employment
and earnings prospects and little to no savings, making it difficult if not impossible
to ever dig out of the hole. In one example, according to the Urban Institute, twothirds of Maryland inmates reported owing child support debt, and one-quarter
reported that their average payments upon release exceeded their entire income.165
Failure to secure a job—or one that pays well enough to afford to meet child support
obligations—can lead to growing debt, more late-payment penalties, and the
possibility of reincarceration for failure to pay.166 Thus, it comes as little surprise
that states report that 30 percent to 40 percent of their hard-to-collect cases consist
of noncustodial parents with criminal records and/or histories of incarceration.167
States’ collection efforts can create great hardship and a lasting barrier to financial
stability, let alone upward mobility, for the individuals being chased for debts.
Additionally, in a perverse and unintended consequence, child support enforcement

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efforts can take a toll on family bonds and impede family reunification after release.168
Importantly, a sizable share of child support debts is owed not to custodial parents
but to state agencies as repayment for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
benefits or foster care services.169
In recognition of the challenges that child support arrearages can pose to re-entry,
the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child Support
Enforcement has released extensive guidance to states with best practices for
alleviating the burden of child support arrearages.170

State innovation to boost child support payments
and upward mobility for children and families
Some states have recently created innovative programs to boost child support
payments and help families save for their children’s future educational expenses.
These efforts build on research that shows that even a small amount of college
savings greatly increases the likelihood of college attendance, particularly among
children from low-income families.171
In 2012, Texas began an 18-month pilot program to use child support arrears
payments—which are often received by the custodial parent in the form of a large
lump sum—as an opportunity to both promote college savings and provide
financial coaching for families.172 Through Texas’ Child Support for College program,
or CS4C, parents who used a portion of the arrears payment to open a college
savings account could receive a matching contribution from the state, as well as
services from a professional financial planner.173 Kansas recently implemented a
similar program called the Child Support Savings Initiative, or CSSI.174 For every dollar
invested in the child’s CSSI account, the parent’s debt obligation to the state will be
reduced by $2.
In Virginia, a pilot program that began in four courts in 2008 has since expanded to
31 courts around the state.175 The program targets noncustodial parents facing jail
for nonpayment of child support and, instead of jail, connects them with employment services and case management and ensures that their monthly child support
order is adjusted to an affordable amount.176 According to the state, of the 2,736
noncustodial parents who participated in the program as of July 2014, 1,000
graduated, and the average monthly child support payment per graduate more than
doubled.177 Recently added into the mix is Club Reinvent, a weekly support group
that provides job hunting and other guidance; 85 of the approximately 150 men who
have participated in Club Reinvent are reported to have found work.178

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Recommendations
Understanding that a criminal record can be a lifelong barrier to economic
security and mobility—with adverse effects on families, communities, and our
entire economy—we must craft policies to ensure that Americans with criminal
records have a fair shot at a decent life for themselves and their families.

A comprehensive solution: Provide a truly clean slate
Enabling Americans with criminal records to obtain a clean slate upon rehabilitation
would permit them to redeem themselves and move on with their lives after they
pay their debt to society. Providing a clean slate also presents a strong incentive
against recidivism, which is likely to reduce crime in our communities. To that end,
a comprehensive solution that would address many of the barriers discussed in
this report is the automatic sealing of minor records after rehabilitation has been
demonstrated. Congress and the states should enact legislation to automatically
seal low-level, nonviolent convictions after an individual has demonstrated his or
her rehabilitation—meaning if he or she has not been rearrested within 10 years
of conviction. Nonconviction records should be automatically sealed or expunged,
at no charge to the individual and without their needing to apply or petition the
court. Absent such legislation, state courts should follow New York’s lead and no
longer disclose criminal history information for individuals who meet the criteria
described above.179 Providing a clean slate is the single most powerful tool to
resolve the obstacles documented in this report.

Recommendations to increase employment opportunities for
people with criminal records
The following steps would go a long way toward improving the employment
prospects of people with criminal records and giving them a fair shot to earn a
decent living, support their families, and avoid recidivism.

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Enact hiring protections that incorporate the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission’s standards for consideration of criminal records
A fair hiring law should be enacted at the federal level. In the meantime, states and
localities should follow the lead of New York, Pennsylvania, and other states that
have enacted fair hiring laws that apply to all job seekers regardless of race. They
should strive to incorporate the principles of the EEOC criminal record guidance:
no consideration of arrest; no across-the-board exclusions of people with criminal
records; evaluation of the time since conviction, the nature and gravity of the
offense, and the nature of the job; and individualized assessment of each job
seeker’s qualifications.

Government should be a model employer
Taken together, federal, state, and local government is by far the largest employer
in the United States. In 2012, 22 million people were employed in all sectors of
government, with more than 2.8 million in the federal government.180 The U.S.
Postal Service alone is the second-largest civilian employer in the country, with
more than half a million jobs dispersed throughout virtually every community.181
The government should set out to be a model employer at every level. The federal
government should take the lead by issuing a fair-chance hiring executive order
that requires federal contractors to delay asking about criminal records until after a
contingent offer has been made and to only consider job-related convictions,182 as
well as a presidential memorandum to ensure that people who have records and
have been rehabilitated get a fair shot at federal jobs.183 Additionally, the EEOC
should issue guidance to federal agencies on how best to communicate with
federal job applicants about equal opportunity procedures, such as the 45-day
deadline to file a discrimination complaint.184 And all levels of government should
implement fair-chance hiring criteria and require fair hiring by government
contractors, training staff with hiring responsibilities and analyzing their hiring
procedures for criminal record barriers. The sheer size of the public sector would
permit a significant bang for the buck if these barriers were eliminated.

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Create subsidized jobs for people with criminal records
Finding employment is particularly difficult for people who have been recently
convicted or who are re-entering the community from incarceration. Employers’
reluctance to hire these people is understandable, given that recidivism rates are
highest for previously convicted people immediately after their return to the
community, after which the probability of reoffending steadily declines. But
employment is a strong antidote to recidivism and the best pathway out of
poverty. Subsidized jobs thus offer a strategy to help people with criminal records
reattach to the labor force and boost their earnings, reduce recidivism, and address
unmet public service needs in carefully designed programs. The administration
should release guidance that encourages state and local workforce development
and criminal justice partners to create subsidized jobs programs and identifies
which federal funds can be used for that purpose. States should leverage available
funding sources such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Workforce
Innovation and Opportunity Act funds to create subsidized jobs programs and
target people with criminal records as a priority population for job placement.

Reform overly broad laws that restrict employment
Federal law—and to a much larger extent, state laws—prohibit many qualified people
with criminal records from working in a broad range of jobs. Some such laws prevent
licensure, often after applicants have invested a great deal of time and money in
training for a particular occupation. Others prohibit certain types of employers
from hiring people with records. Such laws should be reviewed and tailored to
exclude only those individuals who present heightened risk. A strong model is the
statutory scheme adopted for Transportation Security Administration, or TSA,
port workers, whose jobs raise national security implications. Replicable components of the policy include the provisions that only felony convictions within the
last seven years are disqualifying, job seekers have the opportunity to seek a waiver
of the disqualifying offense by providing evidence of rehabilitation, and job seekers
have the opportunity to appeal the decision if TSA’s records are inaccurate.185

Create a federal expungement mechanism
Bipartisan legislation championed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul
(R-KY) would create a sealing mechanism for arrests and convictions of federal nonviolent offenses.186 This proposal marks a long overdue and common-sense step.
However, all federal arrests that do not lead to conviction should be eligible for sealing.
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Expand opportunities for record clearing at the state and local levels
This strategy has a multipronged approach, which includes both changes to the
legal rules for when records can be cleared and more accessible procedures.
•	 Expand the legal bases for record clearing. A clean slate—or at least a lesser
one—is the surest way toward a better employment future. States that limit
expungement or sealing to nonconvictions and juvenile adjudications should
make convictions subject to clearing as well. States that do allow some convictions
to be cleared should look to expand their list of offenses for which expungement
can be sought, bearing in mind that periods of desistance from crime show
rehabilitation from a criminal past. Indiana’s record-clearing statute, enacted in
2013, is perhaps the broadest model currently in use: Nonconvictions are
eligible for expungement after one year, and misdemeanors and less serious
felonies are eligible after five years.187
•	 Leverage diversion programs to permit record avoidance or clearing upon
satisfaction of the conditions of sentencing. Diversion programs—for example,
drug courts, mental health courts, veterans’ courts, and domestic violence
courts—often target particular populations and are typically established at the
state and local levels by either legislatures or courts. They can prevent a defendant from being convicted by deferring adjudication until completion of the
terms of the sentence and thus typically allow individuals who comply with all
necessary conditions to avoid a criminal record.188
•	 Expand access to record-clearing remedies. Making expungement automatic
where possible will ensure that people are not deprived of expungement simply
because they cannot master the legal process or get legal representation.
Connecticut law provides a model, permitting nonconvictions to be automatically
erased.189 Alternatively, presumptions in favor of expungement could be
implemented for nonconvictions and minor offenses.190 Resources for legal
representation, such as funding for legal aid and expungement clinics, should
also be increased so that expungement is not blocked solely because people
cannot access the process or afford a lawyer.

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Require accuracy of background checks
Several recently introduced bills—such as those sponsored by Rep. Robert C. Scott
(D-VA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Sen. Booker, and Sen. Paul—would require
the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track down missing dispositions of cases, as
it does for gun checks under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.191
Enactment of such legislation is long overdue. Moreover, the FBI should invest in
making its reports more decipherable, something that many state databases have
been able to do. The states must also do their part by complying with their
regulatory obligation to provide outcomes of cases on a timely basis. Helping the
FBI provide correct and up-to-date background checks by giving them the proper
case outcomes should be seen as an initiative that promotes re-entry and is
comparable to expanding expungements.
Additionally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, should
promulgate Fair Credit Reporting Act regulations that govern commercial background screeners. The CFPB has statutory authority to issue regulations under the
FCRA. It should do so to bring visible and consistent standards to the uneven and
generally unregulated product of the commercial screening industry. In the meantime, the CFPB should issue clarifying guidance on the most common background
checking errors in this industry.

Recommendations to remove barriers to housing for people with
criminal records
The following steps would ensure that a criminal record is not a lifelong barrier to
housing and that barriers to housing do not impede family reunification.

End the ‘one-strike’ policy in public housing
This overly broad and harsh policy should be repealed and replaced with a policy
requiring individualized assessments, which would address safety concerns while
removing the barriers that people with records face to accessing public housing,
promoting family reunification, and preventing the family homelessness that can
result from a family member with a record joining the household after returning
home from incarceration.

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development should release
guidance limiting landlord consideration of criminal history
HUD should release guidance192 similar to the EEOC guidance on employer
consideration of criminal records, laying out clear standards for how and when
public housing authorities and private landlords should consider housing applicants’
or tenants’ criminal history and requiring a notice of adverse action to prospective
tenants denied housing. HUD should also release a model policy for PHAs.

Local PHAs should reform overly broad admission and eviction policies
Even absent reform to the one-strike policy or additional guidance from HUD,
local PHAs need not and should not exceed the narrow mandatory bans they are
required to implement. They should follow the lead of New Orleans and other
localities that have heeded HUD’s repeated calls to reform their overly broad
admission and eviction policies. As New York City has shown, pilot programs offer
an opportunity for states and localities to explore strategies for removing barriers
to housing for individuals with criminal records and their families.

States and localities should adopt fair housing policies that prohibit
landlords from discriminating on the basis of criminal history
States and cities should follow Oregon’s lead by limiting the use of criminal history
by private landlords, requiring individualized assessment in place of zero tolerance,
and requiring that tenants denied housing be provided a notice of adverse action
that states the reason or reasons for the denial. While policies that lay out specific
rights are optimal, states may be able to issue regulations that construe their
own fair-housing laws to limit discriminatory denials of housing without the
need for legislation.

Recommendations to remove barriers to public assistance
The following recommendations would remove barriers to basic supports for
people with criminal records and boost access to needed mental health and substance
abuse treatment, which can play a key role in supporting successful re-entry.

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End the felony drug ban for income and nutrition assistance
Congress should repeal this harmful and outdated policy so that returning citizens
and their families are able to meet their basic survival needs while they work to get
back on their feet. In the meantime, states that have not already exercised their
authority to opt out of or modify the bans should do so.

Leverage prerelease application procedures to connect soon-to-be-released
inmates with health insurance and other needed supports
States that do not already have prerelease procedures in place should leverage this
model to connect inmates with needed supports upon release to boost their
chances at successful re-entry. Second Chance Act grants offer a funding source to
support planning, capacity building, and other activities to get such programs up
and running.

Suspend Medicaid coverage instead of terminating it
States should suspend Medicaid coverage, instead of terminating it, upon inmates’
incarceration to ensure that individuals have access to needed health coverage
upon release, while reducing state costs associated with the churn of termination
and reapplication.

Strengthen the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, for childless workers
The benefits of the EITC largely miss workers without qualifying children.
Strengthening the EITC for childless workers and noncustodial parents would be
of tremendous benefit to workers with criminal records, who are more likely to
work in low-wage jobs and to be noncustodial parents.

Recommendations to remove barriers to education and training
The following steps would boost access and remove barriers to education and training
for people with criminal records, increasing their future employment and earnings.

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Remove barriers to federal financial aid and tax credits
The ban on federal financial aid for students with drug convictions can interrupt
and even bring an end to students’ college attendance, jeopardizing their chances
of securing a decent job and paving a path to economic security down the road.
Similarly, the harsh lifetime ban on the American Opportunity Tax Credit for
individuals with felony drug convictions puts a vital source of financial aid out of
reach for current and prospective students who might not otherwise be able to
afford to pursue higher education or training. Removing these bans would boost
students’ chances of completing higher education and ensure that a bad decision
at a young age does not stand in the way of economic security later in life.

Invest in prison education and training
Given strong evidence that prison education and training programs reduce
recidivism, increase employment, and yield tremendous cost savings through
reductions in reincarceration, increased investment in these programs for federal
and state inmates would be a win-win for formerly incarcerated individuals and
federal and state budgets. The Obama administration should propose increased
investment for expansion of these types of programs at the federal and state levels.
Additionally, states should explore and leverage Second Chance Act funds; the
Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, or JAG, program; and other criminal
justice grants as potential sources of funding to establish and expand prison
education and training programs.

Test Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals
Prison education and training increase inmates’ employment rates upon release,
substantially decrease recidivism, and yield tremendous cost savings in reduced
incarceration. To test the effects of restoring Pell Grants for inmates, the Department
of Education should exercise its experimental authority and implement pilots to
explore the potential benefits of changing this policy.

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Colleges and universities should limit consideration of criminal history
Higher-educational institutions should review their admissions policies and practices
to evaluate whether they are overly broad or exclusionary. Colleges and universities
should remove criminal history questions from their applications and not ask about
criminal history until after a conditional admission has been made. At that point,
higher-educational institutions should follow New York’s lead by not considering
arrests that did not lead to conviction and youthful infractions and only considering
convictions if they indicate that the student poses a threat to public safety—or if
the convictions have bearing on some aspect of the academic program or student
responsibilities. Schools should develop clear policies on consideration of criminal
records and train admissions staff in how to consider them. Students who are denied
admission due to their criminal records should be informed of the reason and
offered an opportunity to explain and provide further information.

Recommendations to reform criminal justice debt policies
The following recommendations would alleviate criminal justice debts as a barrier
to re-entry and economic security.

Issue guidance to states and localities on best practices for levying and
collecting criminal justice debt
Despite the emergence of several best practices, many states and localities persist
in criminal justice debt policies that present serious barriers to re-entry. In
collaboration with the CFPB, the Department of Justice, or DOJ, should release
guidance that encourages states and localities to adopt best practices in levying
and collecting criminal justice debt.
In the meantime, the following are steps states and localities can take to reform
their criminal justice debt policies. It is important to note that criminal justice
fines and fees can and should be addressed separately from victim restitution.

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Conduct impact analysis before adopting new fees
States and localities should follow Massachusetts’ lead and conduct impact analysis
to examine whether the costs and harms associated with implementing a new fee
outweigh the benefits of revenue generation.

Consider ability to pay
At present, fees are often levied without regard for an individual’s ability to pay.
States and localities should consider ability to pay both at the time fees are levied—
to avoid assessing fees that will later be uncollectible—and when payments begin,
which is typically the date of release from incarceration. Permitting individuals to
pay in affordable installments will increase the likelihood of payment and also
avoid great hardship to individuals and families, who often must choose between
paying the gas bill and making a payment on criminal debt. States and localities
should also allow debts to be placed on hold in circumstances of extreme hardship, such as job loss and illness.

Implement statutes of limitation and write off uncollectible debt
States should adopt statutes of limitation on criminal justice debts to prevent
situations similar to what occurred in Philadelphia between 2011 and 2014 and
should follow Philadelphia’s lead in writing off debt that is old and uncollectible
and that causes great hardship to former defendants.

Permit waiver of fees upon completion of re-entry programs
The Clapham Set provides a model of a program that supports successful re-entry
and allows individuals to have their criminal debts lessened as a reward for
completing the program. States and localities should consider testing similar
models for supporting re-entry.

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Recommendations to reform child support policies
States should take the following steps to reform their child support policies to boost
collections and improve outcomes for formerly incarcerated parents and families.

Prevent crushing debts from accruing during incarceration
States that do not already should include incarceration as a permissible ground for
tolling child support payments. They should also create easily accessible processes
for incarcerated parents to modify their child support orders upon entry into a
correctional facility. States should also suspend interest and penalties while a parent
is incarcerated. Short of establishing incarceration as a basis for halting child
support payments, Minnesota’s law provides a middle-ground option to allow
courts to modify support orders retroactively based on incarceration.193 Additionally,
corrections officials should identify incarcerated parents who have child support
orders, and criminal justice agencies should provide informational presentations
to parents—such as on how to modify an order—as part of prerelease programs.

Keep child support orders affordable
Child support enforcement agencies should strive to ensure that support orders
are established and modified as needed so that they are affordable based on the
parent’s actual current income. Orders that are unrealistic or beyond the parent’s
ability to pay are not in the best interests of either the child or the parent. Currently
22 states and the District of Columbia operate programs designed to ensure that
orders reflect the parent’s current earnings and are modified when earnings
change.194 States that do not already have such policies or programs in place
should follow suit.

Increase pass-through to custodial parents
States should pass through a greater share of child support payments to custodial
parents, rather than withholding most or all to offset TANF and child care assistance,
to ensure that payments benefit the child. States should also forgive debts owed to
the state for TANF and foster care payments as an incentive for the payment of
ongoing support.195

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Provide re-entry and employment supports to noncustodial parents
States should follow Virginia’s lead by providing re-entry services and employment
assistance for parents returning to their families and communities. Boosting
employment and supporting family ties will result in higher child support payments,
lower recidivism rates, and improved family outcomes. Additionally, states should
leverage child support enforcement as an opportunity to help families build savings
for their children’s education, as Kansas and Texas have done.

Other recommendations
The following are additional steps to remove barriers to economic mobility for
people with criminal records.

Implement smart-on-crime reforms to reduce incarceration
Reducing incarceration at the federal level
The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 and the federal drug sentencing reforms adopted
earlier this year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission serve as steps in the right
direction. Congress should build upon these reforms by taking common-sense
steps to reduce the number of low-level, nonviolent offenders in our federal
prisons. Examples that have gained recent attention include:

•	 Reviewing federal mandatory minimum penalties to ensure that they are not
excessively severe and apply only to those offenders who warrant such punishment
•	 Expanding the “safety valve” provision to give judges more flexibility to depart
from federal mandatory minimum sentences
•	 Expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration, such as community supervision
and residential re-entry centers196
•	 Expanding early release measures, such as reinstating parole for federal inmates,
expanding good-time credit—early release for good behavior—and allowing
courts to reduce sentences where appropriate, such as for elderly and terminally
ill inmates197

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Such reforms are likely to produce substantial cost savings; for instance, the
Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act
sponsored by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) would save
more than $4 billion over 10 years.198
Reducing incarceration at the state level
States should take steps to reduce their prison populations as well. While some
states have seen reductions in incarceration in recent years, most states’ prison
populations remain at historic heights after decades of exponential growth.
Sentencing reform and other smart-on-crime steps to reduce incarceration offer
an opportunity for states to realize significant cost savings, while maintaining and
even enhancing public safety and improving the future outlook for their residents.
States should consider options such as:

•	 Reducing the length of sentences through reforms to three-strikes laws, mandatory minimums, and other overly harsh policies
•	 Reclassifying low-level felonies as misdemeanors, as California’s recently passed
Proposition 47 does
•	 Expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration for certain populations through
drug and mental health courts, veterans’ courts, and other specialized diversion
programs designed to connect low-level offenders with treatment and supportive
services instead of prison199 and, in some cases, to avoid conviction altogether
•	 Reviewing and reforming laws that target or disproportionately impact homeless people
•	 Limiting the use of reincarceration as a penalty for technical violations of parole
or probation when no new crime has been committed
Additionally, all states should participate in the National Incident-Based Reporting
System, or NIBRS, which provides comprehensive data that law enforcement and
service providers can use for accountability and self-assessment.200 States should
reinvest the savings from reduced incarceration into more productive investments
such as mental health services, drug treatment, re-entry services and supports, and
diversion programs.201

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Leverage federal grants to move state and local incentives away from mass
incarceration and toward successful re-entry
All federal grants should be reviewed for opportunities to reorient state and local
incentives. One notable example is the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant,
or JAG program, which serves as the leading source of federal funding for state
and local criminal justice activities. Congress should review and revise the program’s
solicitation and performance measures to provide incentives to reduce incarceration
and support re-entry. In the meantime, DOJ should exercise its authority to modify
the program’s performance measures and replace them with measures tailored to
reduce incarceration while improving public safety. Other federal grants should be
reviewed for similar opportunities to reorient incentives and support re-entry.

Reauthorize the Second Chance Act and fully fund DOJ’s Smart on
Crime initiative
Enacted in 2008, the Second Chance Act authorizes DOJ to award federal grants
to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide services designed
to reduce recidivism. Grants support activities and programs such as mentoring,
substance abuse and mental health treatment, and demonstration programs, as
well as re-entry courts specially designed to support reintegration after sentencing
and technology career-training programs to train inmates for technology-based
jobs before their release.
President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposed $173 million for criminal
justice reform, including targeted funding to support the Smart on Crime initiative—
a package of reforms that promotes diversion programs—such as drug courts,
mental health courts, and veterans’ courts—and other alternatives to incarceration
for low-level drug offenders, as well as encourages increased investment in programs
to support re-entry and reduce recidivism.202 Increased funding for Second
Chance Act grants is a key part of the administration’s Smart on Crime initiative.
Congress should fully fund this initiative, including boosting funding for Second
Chance Act grants.

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Increase federal funding for civil legal aid, and make legal aid a preferential
partner in federal re-entry grants
The administration should propose increased funding for civil legal aid in federal
re-entry grants. Additionally, relevant agencies should give preference to applications
that include civil legal aid as a partner in federal re-entry grants and should develop
performance measures that assess whether primary contractors actually utilize
their services to address the myriad problems people with criminal records face.

Consider collateral consequences before issuing new federal policies
In 2011, Attorney General Holder directed DOJ to consider whether any proposed
policy would exacerbate the collateral consequences of a criminal record; if so, the
policy must be justified and tailored as narrowly as possible.203 Other federal agencies
should follow DOJ’s lead by adopting similar policies.

Create inventories of collateral consequences
In recent years, states across the country—such as Maryland, Ohio, New York,
and California—as well as legal organizations such as the American Bar Association,
have undertaken efforts to compile and inventory collateral consequences. Their
goal is to ensure that defendants are appropriately notified of relevant collateral
consequences at all stages of the criminal process and to review and alleviate those
consequences to support successful re-entry.204 States that have not yet done so
should undertake such efforts and utilize the information compiled to inform a
thorough review of their laws and policies to avoid unnecessary obstacles to re-entry.

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Conclusion
Bipartisan momentum is building in support of criminal justice reform, due in part
to the enormous costs of mass incarceration, as well as increasing interest in evidencebased approaches to public safety. Policymakers and opinion leaders of all political
stripes have called for sentencing and prison reform, as well as policies to put second
chances within reach.205 Former President Bill Clinton—who signed into law the
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994—recently told a group
of mayors and law enforcement officials that some criminal justice policies have
gone too far and predicted that criminal justice reform would be a central issue in
the 2016 presidential campaign.206 Now is the time for the federal government,
Congress, and states and cities to work together to reform public policies to ensure
Americans with criminal records have a fair shot at a second chance.

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Growing bipartisan support for criminal justice reform
“There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with
its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential. … The criminal justice system is broken,
and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.” – Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the
U.S. House of Representatives207
“Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans
and weakens too many communities. And many aspects of our criminal justice system may
actually exacerbate these problems, rather than alleviate them. … As a society, we pay
much too high a price whenever our system fails to deliver outcomes that deter and punish
crime, keep us safe, and ensure that those who have paid their debts have the chance to
become productive citizens.” – Eric Holder, attorney general208
“The biggest impediment to civil rights and employment in our country is a criminal record.
Our current system is broken and has trapped tens of thousands of young men and women
in a cycle of poverty and incarceration. Many of these young people could escape this trap if
criminal justice were reformed, if records were expunged after time served, and if nonviolent
crimes did not become a permanent blot preventing employment. ” – Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)209
“Today’s criminal justice system is big government on steroids, and the responsibility for
taming its excesses falls to those committed to smaller government: conservatives.”
— Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform210
“We basically took a shotgun to a problem that needed a .22 ... We took a shotgun to it and
just sent everybody to jail for too long.” – Former President Bill Clinton211
“We know from long experience that if [former prisoners] can’t find work, or a home, or help,
they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison. … America is the
land of the second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should
lead to a better life.” – Former President George W. Bush212
“[T]here’s a big chunk of that prison population that is involved in nonviolent crimes. And it
is having a disabling effect on communities. You have entire populations that are rendered
incapable of getting a legitimate job because of a prison record. And it boggles up a huge
amount of resources. If you look at state budgets, part of the reason that tuition has been
rising in public universities across the country is because more and more resources were
going into paying for prisons, and that left less money to provide to colleges and universities. I think we have to figure out what are we doing right to make sure that that downward
trend in violence continues, but also are there millions of lives out there that are being
destroyed or distorted because we haven’t fully thought through our process?” – President
Barack Obama213
“The idea that we lock people up, throw them away, never give them a chance at redemption, is not what America is about. Being able to give someone a second chance is very
important.” – Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)214
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Appendix A
What the administration and federal agencies can do

The federal government should be a model employer
The Obama administration should issue a fair-chance hiring executive order that
requires federal contractors to delay asking about criminal records until after a
contingent offer has been made and to consider only job-related convictions. The
administration should also offer a presidential memorandum to ensure that people
with records who have been rehabilitated have a fair shot at federal jobs.215
Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should issue
guidance to federal agencies on how best to communicate with federal job
applicants about equal opportunity procedures, such as the 45-day deadline to file
a discrimination complaint. Federal agencies should train staff with hiring
responsibilities and analyze their hiring procedures for criminal record barriers.

Leverage federal grants to move state and local incentives away from mass
incarceration and toward successful re-entry
All federal grants should be reviewed for opportunities to reorient state and local
incentives. One notable example is the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant
program, which serves as the leading source of federal funding for state and local
criminal justice activities. The Department of Justice should exercise its authority
to modify the program’s performance measures and replace them with measures
tailored to reduce incarceration while improving public safety. Other federal
grants should be reviewed for similar opportunities to reorient incentives and
support re-entry.

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Support subsidized jobs for people with criminal records
The Obama administration should release guidance that encourages state and
local workforce development and criminal justice partners to create subsidized
jobs programs, identifies which federal funds can be used for that purpose, and
encourages people with criminal records to be targeted as a priority population.

Increase federal funding for civil legal aid, and make legal aid a preferential
partner in federal re-entry grants
The Obama administration should propose increased funding for civil legal aid in
federal re-entry grants. Additionally, relevant agencies should give preference to
applications that include civil legal aid as a partner in federal re-entry grants and
should develop performance measures that assess whether primary contractors
actually utilize their services to address the myriad problems that people with
criminal records face.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should issue regulations under
the Fair Credit Reporting Act that govern background check companies
The CFPB should promulgate FCRA regulations that govern commercial background screeners to bring visible and consistent standards to the uneven and
generally unregulated product of the commercial screening industry. In the
meantime, the CFPB should issue clarifying guidance on the most common
background checking errors in this industry.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development should release
guidance that limits landlord consideration of criminal history
HUD should release guidance similar to the EEOC guidance on employer
consideration of criminal records, laying out clear standards for how and when
public housing authorities and private landlords should consider housing applicants’
or tenants’ criminal history and requiring a notice of adverse action to prospective
tenants denied housing. HUD should also release a model policy for PHAs.

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Expand prison education and training
Given strong evidence that prison education and training programs reduce
recidivism, increase employment, and yield tremendous cost savings through
reductions in reincarceration, increased investment in these programs for federal
and state inmates would be a win-win for formerly incarcerated individuals and
federal and state budgets. The Obama administration should propose increased
investment in expansion of these types of programs at the federal and state levels.

The Department of Education should test restoration of Pell Grants for
incarcerated students
Prison education and training increase inmates’ employment rates upon release,
substantially decrease recidivism, and save significant costs through reduced
incarceration. The Department of Education should exercise its experimental
authority and implement pilots to explore the potential effects of restoring Pell
Grants for inmates.

DOJ should issue guidance to states and localities on best practices for
levying and collecting criminal justice debt
Despite the emergence of several best practices, many states and localities persist in
criminal justice debt policies that present serious barriers to re-entry. In collaboration with the CFPB, The Department of Justice should issue guidance to states
and localities to adopt best practices in levying and collecting criminal justice debt.

Federal agencies should consider collateral consequences before issuing
new policies
In 2011, Attorney General Holder directed DOJ to consider whether any proposed
policy would exacerbate the collateral consequences of a criminal record; if so, the
policy must be justified and tailored as narrowly as possible. Other federal agencies
should follow DOJ’s lead by adopting similar policies.

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What Congress can do

Enact smart-on-crime reforms to reduce incarceration
The Fair Sentencing Act and the federal drug sentencing reforms adopted earlier
this year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission serve as steps in the right direction.
Congress should build upon these reforms by taking common-sense steps to
reduce the number of low-level nonviolent offenders in our federal prisons—
reforms that are likely to produce substantial savings.
Examples that have gained recent attention include:
•	 Reviewing federal mandatory minimum penalties to ensure that they are not
excessively severe and apply only to those offenders who warrant such punishment;
expanding the safety valve provision to give judges more flexibility to depart
from federal mandatory minimum sentences
•	 Expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration, such as community supervision
and residential re-entry centers
•	 Expanding early-release measures, such as reinstating parole for federal inmates,
expanding good-time credit—early release for good behavior—and allowing
courts to reduce sentences where appropriate, such as for elderly and terminally
ill inmates

Reauthorize the Second Chance Act and fully fund the administration’s
Smart on Crime initiative
Congress should reauthorize the Second Chance Act, which authorizes DOJ to
award federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to
provide services designed to support re-entry and reduce recidivism. In addition,
Congress should fully fund the administration’s Smart on Crime initiative—a
package of reforms that promotes diversion programs—such as drug courts,
mental health courts, and veterans’ courts—and other alternatives to incarceration
for low-level drug offenders, as well as encourages increased investment in programs
to support re-entry and reduce recidivism.

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Leverage federal grants to move state and local incentives away from mass
incarceration and toward successful re-entry
All federal grants should be reviewed for opportunities to reorient state and local
incentives. One notable example is the JAG program, which serves as the leading
source of federal funding for state and local criminal justice activities. Congress
should review and revise JAG’s and other federal grants’ solicitation and performance
measures to provide incentives to reduce incarceration.

Enact a federal fair-chance hiring law
Congress should enact a fair-chance hiring law that includes features such as
banning the box on job applications that asks about criminal records and delaying
background checks until after a job seeker is being seriously considered for hire.
The law should also incorporate the principles of the 2012 EEOC guidance on
employer consideration of criminal records. Additionally, it should be designed to
apply to all job seekers regardless of race, in order to protect all individuals with
criminal records.

Create a federal expungement mechanism
Bipartisan legislation championed by Sens. Booker and Paul would create a sealing
mechanism for arrests and convictions of federal nonviolent offenses. This
proposal marks a long overdue and common-sense step. However, all federal
arrests that do not lead to conviction should be eligible for sealing.

Require accuracy of Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks
Several recently introduced bills—such as those sponsored by Rep. Scott, Rep.
Ellison, Sen. Booker, and Sen. Paul—would require the FBI to track down missing
dispositions of cases, as it does for gun checks under the Brady Handgun Violence
Prevention Act. Enactment of such legislation is long overdue. Moreover, the FBI
should invest in making its reports more decipherable, something that many state
databases have been able to do.

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Reform overly broad laws that restrict employment
The statutory scheme in the Transportation Security Administration’s port-worker
program provides a strong model, including provisions that only felony convictions
within the past seven years are disqualifying, job seekers have the opportunity to seek
a waiver of the disqualifying offense by providing evidence of rehabilitation, and job
seekers have the opportunity to appeal the decision if TSA’s records are inaccurate.

End the ‘one-strike’ policy in public housing
This overly broad and harsh policy should be repealed and replaced with a policy
that requires individualized assessments, which would address safety concerns
while removing the barriers that people with records face in accessing public
housing, promoting family reunification, and preventing the family homelessness
that can result from a family member with a record joining the household after
returning home from incarceration.

End the felony drug ban for income and nutrition assistance
Congress should repeal this harmful and outdated policy so that returning citizens
and their families are able to meet their basic survival needs while they work to get
back on their feet.

Remove barriers to federal financial aid and tax credits
The ban on federal financial aid for students with drug convictions, and the
lifetime ban on the American Opportunity Tax Credit for individuals with felony
drug convictions, can put financial aid out of reach for students who might
otherwise not be able to afford to pursue higher education or training. Removing
these bans would boost students’ chances of completing higher education and
ensure that a bad decision at a young age does not stand in the way of economic
security later in life.

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Strengthen the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers
The benefits of the EITC largely miss workers without qualifying children.
Strengthening the EITC for childless workers and noncustodial parents would be
of tremendous benefit to workers with criminal records, who are more likely to
work in low-wage jobs and to be noncustodial parents.

What states and localities can do

Implement smart-on-crime reforms to reduce incarceration
Sentencing reform and other smart-on-crime steps to reduce incarceration offer
an opportunity for states to realize significant cost savings, while maintaining and
even enhancing public safety and improving the future outlook for their residents.
States should consider options such as:
•	 Reducing the length of sentences through reforms to three-strikes laws,
mandatory minimums, and other overly harsh policies
•	 Reclassifying low-level felonies as misdemeanors, as California’s recently passed
Proposition 47 does
•	 Expanding the use of alternatives to incarceration for certain populations
through diversion programs designed to connect low-level offenders with
treatment and supportive services instead of prison and, in some cases, to avoid
conviction altogether
•	 Reviewing and reforming laws that target or disproportionately impact homeless people
•	 Limiting the use of reincarceration as a penalty for technical violations of parole
or probation when no new crime has been committed
Additionally, all states should participate in the National Incident-Based Reporting
System, which provides comprehensive data that law enforcement and service
providers can use for accountability and self-assessment. States should reinvest the
savings from reduced incarceration into more-productive investments such as
mental health services, drug treatment, re-entry services and supports, and
diversion programs.
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Create inventories of collateral consequences
In recent years, states across the country, as well as legal organizations such as the
American Bar Association, have undertaken efforts to compile and inventory
collateral consequences for the purpose of ensuring that defendants are appropriately
notified of relevant collateral consequences at all stages of the criminal process
and to review and alleviate those consequences to support successful re-entry.
States that have not yet done so should undertake such efforts and utilize the
information compiled to inform a thorough review of their laws and policies to
avoid unnecessary obstacles to re-entry.

Implement fair-chance hiring policies
States and localities should adopt fair-chance hiring laws that include such features
as banning the box to delay background checks until a job seeker is being seriously
considered for hire, as well as the principles of the 2012 EEOC guidance on
employer consideration of criminal records. Colorblind fair-chance hiring laws
have the broadest impact by helping all job seekers with criminal records regardless
of race. Fair-chance hiring policies can be constructed to reach both private and
public employers.

Leverage subsidized jobs for people with criminal records
Subsidized jobs offer a strategy to help people with criminal records reattach to
the labor force, boost earnings for themselves and their families, reduce recidivism, and address unmet public service needs in carefully designed programs.
States should leverage available funding sources such as Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to create
subsidized jobs programs and target people with criminal records as a priority
population for job placement.

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Reform overly broad state laws that restrict employment of people with
criminal records
The statutory scheme in the TSA port-worker program provides a strong model,
including the provisions that only felony convictions within the last seven years
are disqualifying, job seekers have the opportunity to seek a waiver of the disqualifying offense by providing evidence of rehabilitation, and job seekers have the
opportunity to appeal the decision if TSA’s records are inaccurate.

Expand access to record clearing
States that limit expungement or sealing to nonconviction records and juvenile
adjudications should join the majority of states that make at least some convictions
subject to clearing as well. States that do allow some convictions to be cleared
should look to expand their list of offenses for which expungement can be sought,
bearing in mind that periods of desistance from crime show rehabilitation from a
criminal past. States should strive to make record clearing automatic where
possible to ensure that people are not deprived of expungement simply because
they cannot master the legal process or get legal representation. Alternatively,
presumptions in favor of expungement could be implemented for nonconvictions
and minor offenses.

Provide timely information on dispositions of arrests to the FBI
While the FBI ultimately has responsibility to provide correct and up-to-date
reports from its database, its results can only be as good as the data that the states
provide to it. States are required by law to provide outcomes of all arrests to the
FBI within 120 days, but very few comply with this obligation. States should come
into compliance, recognizing that improving the accuracy of FBI records is an
important re-entry goal.

Reform overly broad public housing admission and eviction policies
Even absent reform to the one-strike policy or additional guidance from HUD,
local public housing authorities need not and should not exceed the mandatory
ban they are required to implement in certain narrow circumstances. They should

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heed HUD’s repeated calls to reform overly broad admission and eviction policies.
As a middle ground, pilot programs offer an opportunity for states and localities
to explore strategies for removing barriers to housing for individuals with criminal
records and their families.

Adopt fair housing policies that prohibit landlords from discriminating on
the basis of criminal history
States and cities should enact policies that limit the use of criminal history by private
landlords, requiring individualized assessment in place of zero tolerance and
requiring that tenants denied housing be provided a notice of adverse action stating
the reason or reasons for the denial. While policies laying out specific rights are
optimal, states may be able to issue regulations that construe their own fair-housing
laws to limit discriminatory denials of housing without the need for legislation.

Opt out of felony drug bans on public assistance
While federal law imposes a harsh lifetime ban on TANF and the Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program for people with felony drug convictions, states have
the authority to modify or opt out of the ban entirely. States that have not already
exercised this authority should eliminate or modify the bans to enable returning
citizens and their families to access basic assistance while they get back on their feet.

Leverage prerelease procedures to connect individuals with needed health
insurance and public assistance upon release
States that do not already have prerelease procedures in place should leverage this
model to connect inmates with needed supports upon release to boost their chances
at successful re-entry. Second Chance Act grants offer a funding source to support
planning, capacity building, and other activities to get such programs up and running.

Suspend Medicaid coverage instead of terminating it
States that do not do so already should opt to suspend Medicaid coverage, not
terminate it, upon inmates’ incarceration to ensure that individuals have access to
needed health coverage upon release, while reducing state costs associated with
the churn of termination and reapplication.
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Invest in prison education and training
Given strong evidence that prison education and training programs reduce
recidivism, increase employment, and yield tremendous cost savings through
reductions in reincarceration, increased investment in these programs for state
inmates would be a win-win for formerly incarcerated individuals and state
budgets. States should explore and leverage Second Chance Act, JAG, and other
criminal justice grants as potential sources of funding to establish and expand
prison education and training programs.

Implement best practices in levying and collecting criminal debt
•	 Conduct impact analysis before adopting new fees. States should conduct
impact analysis to examine whether the costs and harms associated with
implementing a new fee outweigh the benefit from revenue generation.
•	 Consider ability to pay. At present, fees are typically levied without regard for
an individual’s ability to pay. States and localities should consider ability to pay
both at the time fees are levied—to avoid assessing fees that will later be
uncollectible—and when payments begin, which is typically the date of release
from incarceration. Permitting individuals to pay in affordable installments will
increase the likelihood of payment and also avoid great hardship to individuals
and families. States and localities should also allow debts to be placed on hold in
circumstances of extreme hardship, such as job loss and illness.
•	 Implement statutes of limitation and write off uncollectible debt. States
should adopt statutes of limitation on criminal debts and write off debt that is
old and uncollectible and causing great hardship to former defendants.
•	 Permit waiver of fees upon completion of re-entry programs. States and
localities should consider testing models to support re-entry that allow participants
to have their criminal debts lessened as a reward for completing the program.

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Adopt best practices in child support enforcement
•	 Prevent crushing debts from accruing during incarceration. States that do not
already should include incarceration as a permissible ground for tolling child
support payments and create easily accessible processes for incarcerated parents
to modify their child support orders upon entry into a correctional facility.
States should also suspend interest and penalties while a parent is incarcerated.
Short of establishing incarceration as a basis for halting child support payments,
a middle-ground option is to allow courts to modify support orders retroactively based on incarceration. Additionally, corrections officials should identify
incarcerated parents who have child support orders, and criminal justice
agencies should provide informational presentations to parents—such as on
how to modify an order—as part of prerelease programs.
•	 Keep child support orders affordable. Child support enforcement agencies
should strive to ensure that support orders are established and modified as
needed so that they are affordable based on the parent’s actual current income.
Orders that are unrealistic or beyond the parent’s ability to pay are not in the
best interests of either the child or the parent. States that do not already should
establish programs designed to ensure that orders reflect current earnings and
are modified when earnings change.
•	 Increase pass-through to custodial parents. States should pass through a
greater share of child support payments to custodial parents rather than withholding large portions to offset TANF and child care assistance to ensure that
payments benefit the child. States should also forgive debts owed to the state for
TANF and foster care payments as an incentive for payment of ongoing support.
•	 Provide re-entry and employment supports to noncustodial parents. States
should incorporate re-entry services and employment assistance into child
support enforcement efforts. Boosting employment and supporting family ties
will result in higher child support payments, lower recidivism rates, and
improved family outcomes. Additionally, states should explore options to
leverage child support enforcement as an opportunity to help families build
savings for their children’s education.

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What employers can do
Eliminating people with criminal records from the hiring pool will disqualify some
of the most qualified candidates. Moreover, background checks can be costly and
inaccurate. The following are steps employers can take to be model employers and
give job candidates with criminal records a fair shot.
•	 Review background screening policies for conformance with the EEOC’s 2012
guidance on employer consideration of criminal records
•	 Ensure that hiring criteria are tailored to the risk actually presented by candidates
with criminal records
•	 Adopt best practices identified by the EEOC’s guidance, such as considering
individual circumstances that have bearing on a job applicant’s suitability and
adopting a ban-the-box approach that postpones consideration of a criminal
record until later in the hiring process
•	 Contract with commercial screeners that have procedures that ensure reliable
results

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What colleges and universities can do
Higher-education institutions should review their admissions policies and practices
to evaluate whether they are overly broad or exclusionary. The following steps would
go a long way toward removing barriers to higher education for students with
criminal records:
•	 Remove criminal history questions from applications and delay asking about
criminal history until after a conditional admission has been made.
•	 Follow New York’s lead by not considering arrests that did not lead to conviction
and youthful infractions and only considering convictions if they indicate that
the student poses a threat to public safety or if they have bearing on some aspect
of the academic program or student responsibilities.
•	 Develop clear policies on consideration of criminal records and train admissions
staff in how to consider them.
•	 Inform students who are denied admission due to their criminal records of the
reason or reasons and offer them an opportunity to explain and provide further
information.

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Appendix B
The following list includes several resources related to the barriers to economic
security and mobility that people with criminal records face.

General
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass
Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
Marc Mauer and Meda Chesney-Lind, eds.,
Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment “National
Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of
Conviction,” available at http://www.
abacollateralconsequences.org/.
“Extension of Current Estimates of Redemption Times: Robustness Testing, Out-of-State
Arrests, and Racial Differences,” available at
https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/
abstract.aspx?ID=262174.
Collateral Consequences Resource Center,
available at http://ccresourcecenter.org/.
“Reentry Council Snapshots and Additional
Resources,” available at http://csgjusticecenter.org/nrrc/projects/firc/snapshots/.
“Reentry Mythbusters,” available at http://
csgjusticecenter.org/nrrc/projects/
mythbusters/.
Letter to state attorneys general, available at
http://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/
uploads/2014/02/Reentry_Council_AG_
Letter.pdf.

Margaret Colgate Love, Jenny Roberts, and
Cecelia Klingele, Collateral Consequences of
Criminal Convictions: Law, Policy and Practice,
2012-2013 ed.
Report to the President, available at http://www.
whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/
docs/053014_mbk_report.pdf.
“Collateral Damage: America’s Failure to
Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime,”
available at http://www.nacdl.org/
restoration/roadmapreport/.
“Fulfilling the Promise of My Brother’s Keeper,”
available at http://www.piconetwork.org/
tools-resources/my-brothers-keeper-report.
Reentry Net, available at http://www.reentry.net/.
“Trends in Corrections,” available at http://
sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/
inc_Trends_in_Corrections_Fact_sheet.pdf.

Employment
“Criminal Stigma, Race, Gender, and Employment: An Expanded Assessment of the
Consequences of Imprisonment for
Employment,” available at http://nicic.gov/
library/028063.

“What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse,” available
at http://whatworks.csgjusticecenter.org.

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“Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration
of Arrest and Conviction Records in
Employment Decisions Under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.,” available at http://
www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm.
“What Job Applicants and Employees Should
Know,” available at http://www.eeoc.gov/
eeoc/publications/background_checks_employees.cfm.

available at http://sentencingproject.org/
doc/publications/cc_A Lifetime of
Punishment.pdf.

Education
“The Use of Criminal History Records in
College Admissions Reconsidered,” available
at http://www.communityalternatives.org/
pdf/Reconsidered-criminal-hist-recs-incollege-admissions.pdf.

“Background Checks: What Employers Need to
Know,” available at http://www.eeoc.gov/
eeoc/publications/background_checks_employers.cfm.

Education from the Inside Out Coalition, available
at http://www.eiocoalition.org/#home.

“Ban the Box: A Fair Chance for a Stronger
Economy,” available at http://www.nelp.org/
page/content/banthebox/.

Debt

“Best Practices Standards: The Proper Use of
Criminal Records in Hiring,” available at
http://www.lac.org/doc_library/lac/
publications/Best_Practices_Standards_-_
The_Proper_Use_of_Criminal_Records_
in_Hiring.pdf.

Housing
Letter to public housing authorities, available at
http://csgjusticecenter.org/documents/0000/
1130/HUD_letter.pdf.

Public assistance

“Courts Are Not Revenue Centers,” available at
http://cosca.ncsc.org/~/media/Microsites/
Files/COSCA/Policy%20Papers/CourtsAreNotRevenueCenters-Final.ashx.
“Your Money, Your Goals,” available at http://
www.consumerfinance.gov/your-moneyyour-goals/.
“Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry,”
available at http://www.brennancenter.org/
publication/criminal-justice-debt-barrierreentry.
“The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial
Barriers to Offender Reintegration,” available
at http://justicefellowship.org/sites/default/
files/The%20Debt%20Penalty_John%20
Jay_August%202014.pdf.

“‘Some Days Are Harder Than Hard’: Welfare
Reform and Women With Drug Convictions
in Pennsylvania,” available at http://www.
clasp.org/resources-and-publications/
files/0167.pdf.

“Building Debt While Doing Time: Child
Support and Incarceration,” available at
https://peerta.acf.hhs.gov/uploadedFiles/
BuildingDebt.pdf.

“Advocacy Toolkit: Opting Out of Federal Ban on
Food Stamps and TANF,” available at http://
www.lac.org/toolkits/TANF/TANF.htm.

“Child Support Toolkit & Training,” available at
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/
toolkit-training.

“A Lifetime of Punishment: The Impact of the
Felony Drug Ban on Welfare Benefits,”

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About the authors
Rebecca Vallas is the Associate Director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at

the Center for American Progress, where she plays a leading role in anti-poverty
policy development and analysis, with a particular focus on strengthening our
nation’s income security programs. Previously, she worked as the deputy director
for government affairs at the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’
Representatives and as an attorney and policy advocate at Community Legal
Services in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Sharon Dietrich is the litigation director at Community Legal Services in

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she has represented low-income people
individually and systemically in employment matters since 1987. Her work
focuses on removing employment barriers, especially criminal records; preserving
jobs; and helping workers access employment-related benefits. She is nationally
known for work on unemployment insurance, criminal records as a barrier to
employment, and anti-poverty strategies.

Acknowledgments
The authors wish to thank Greg Berman, Merf Elman, Maurice Emsellem, Jeremy
Haile, Amy Hirsch, Christine Leonard, Marc Mauer, Amy Solomon, and Ram
Subramanian. Additionally, the authors are enormously grateful to Tyler Cherry
and Rachel West for their invaluable research support, as well as to Meghan Miller,
Anne Paisley, and Lauren Vicary for their extremely helpful and patient editing.

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Endnotes
	 1	 The Department of Justice reports that 100.5 million
Americans have state criminal history records on file.
Some organizations, such as the National Employment
Law Project, or NELP, have contended that this figure
may overestimate the number of people with criminal
records, as individuals may have records in multiple
states. NELP thus suggests reducing the DOJ figure by
30 percent, which with 2012 data yields an estimate of
70.3 million individuals with criminal records. However,
NELP concedes that this figure is almost certainly an
underestimation. For the DOJ data, see Bureau of
Justice Statistics, Survey of State Criminal History
Information Systems, 2012 (U.S. Department of Justice,
2014), available at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/
grants/244563.pdf. For a discussion of NELP’s
methodology that yields a more conservative estimate
using 2008 data, see Michelle Natividad Rodriguez and
Maurice Emsellem, “65 Million ‘Need Not Apply’: The
Case For Reforming Criminal Background Checks For
Employment” (New York: National Employment Law
Project, 2011), available at http://www.nelp.org/page/-/
SCLP/2011/65_Million_Need_Not_Apply.pdf?nocdn=1.

Reinvestment State Assessment Report (Washington:
Urban Institute, January 2014), available at http://www.
urban.org/publications/412994.html. For more
information on the initiative, see Bureau of Justice
Administration, “What is JRI?”, available at https://www.
bja.gov/programs/justicereinvestment/what_is_jri.html
(last accessed November 2014).
	 9	 For more information on the Federal Interagency
Reentry Council, see Council of State Governments
Justice Center, “Federal Interagency Reentry Council,”
available at http://csgjusticecenter.org/nrrc/projects/
firc/ (last accessed November 2014).
	 10	 For more information on My Brother’s Keeper, see The
White House, “My Brother’s Keeper,” available at http://
www.whitehouse.gov/my-brothers-keeper (last
accessed November 2014).
	 11	 The Sentencing Project, “Trends in U.S. Corrections”
(2013), available at http://sentencingproject.org/doc/
publications/inc_Trends_in_Corrections_Fact_sheet.pdf.

	 2	 Robert H. DeFina and Lance Hannon, “The Impact of
Mass Incarceration on Poverty,” Crime and Delinquency
59 (4) (2013): 562–586, available at http://papers.ssrn.
com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1348049.

	12	 Ibid.

	 3	 Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass
Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The
New Press: 2010).

	 14	 Eisha Jain, “Arrests as Regulation,” Stanford Law Review
(forthcoming). See also Michael Pinard, “Collateral
Consequences of Criminal Convictions: Confronting
Issues of Race and Dignity,” New York University Law
Review 85 (2010): 457.

	 4	 Bruce Western, “The Impact of Incarceration on Wage
Mobility and Inequality,” American Sociological Review
67 (2012): 526–546, available at http://scholar.harvard.
edu/brucewestern/files/western_asr.pdf.
	 5	 John Schmitt and Kris Warner, “Ex-offenders and the
Labor Market” (Washington: Center for Economic and
Policy Research, 2010), available at http://www.cepr.
net/documents/publications/ex-offenders-2010-11.pdf.
	 6	 Melissa Kearney and Benjamin Harris, “Ten Facts About
Crime and Incarceration in the United States”
(Washington: The Hamilton Project, 2014), available at
http://www.hamiltonproject.org/papers/ten_economic_facts_about_crime_and_incarceration_in_the_united_states/.
	 7	 Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura find that the
risk of recidivism drops sharply over time. Specifically,
they find that the risk of recidivism for individuals who
have a prior conviction for a property offense drops to
no different than the risk of arrest in the general
population three to four years after the individual has
remained crime free. Likewise, they find that the risk of
recidivism for individuals with a drug conviction is no
different than that of the general population after four
years. For people with multiple convictions, they
suggest a more conservative estimate of 10 years. See
Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura, “Redemption
in the Presence of Widespread Criminal Background
Checks,” Criminology 47 (2) (2009): 331.
	 8	 The Justice Reinvestment Initiative is a public-private
partnership between the Bureau of Justice Administration
and The Pew Charitable Trusts. It provides technical
assistance to participating states and localities in
evaluating the drivers of mass incarceration and
identifying and implementing changes to reduce their
prison populations while increasing public safety.
According to the Urban Institute, changes implemented in 17 states as part of the Justice Reinvestment
Initiative could yield as much as $4.7 billion in savings
over 10 years. Nancy G. LaVigne and others, Justice

	 13	 Kearney and Harris, “Ten Facts About Crime and
Incarceration in the United States.”

	 15	 Robert Brame and others, “Cumulative Prevalence of
Arrest From Ages 8 to 23,”Pediatrics 129 (1) (2012):
21–27, available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/
content/early/2011/12/14/peds.2010-3710.abstract.
	 16	 Robert Brame and others, “Demographic Patterns of
Cumulative Arrest Prevalence by Ages 18 and 23,” Crime
& Delinquency 60 (3) (2014): 471–486, available at
http://cad.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/12/18/
0011128713514801.abstract.
	 17	 Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller, “As Arrest Records
Rise, Americans Find Consequences Can Last a
Lifetime,” The Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2014,
available at http://online.wsj.com/articles/as-arrestrecords-rise-americans-find-consequences-can-last-alifetime-1408415402.
	 18	 New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services,
“2009-2013 Dispositions of Adult Arrests, New York City
Tables, Misdemeanors,” available at http://www.
criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/dispos/nyc.pdf (last
accessed November 2014).
	 19	 Steven Raphael and Michael A. Stoll, “Why Are So Many
Americans in Prison?” In Raphael and Stoll, eds., Do
Prisons Make Us Safer? The Benefits and Costs of the
Prison Boom (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2009).
	 20	 The Sentencing Project, “Trends in U.S. Corrections.”
	21	 Ibid.
	22	 Ibid.
	 23	 Catherine Hanssens and others, “A Roadmap for
Change” (New York: Center for Gender & Sexuality Law
at Columbia Law School, 2014), available at http://web.
law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/gendersexuality/files/roadmap_for_change_full_report.pdf.

68  Center for American Progress  |  One Strike and You’re Out

	 24	 Kearney and Harris, “Ten Facts About Crime and
Incarceration in the United States.”
	25	 Ibid.
	 26	 Erik Ortiz, “Sesame Street introduces first-ever muppet
with a parent in prison,” New York Daily News, June 19,
2013, available at http://www.nydailynews.com/
entertainment/tv-movies/sesame-street-introducesmuppet-dad-jail-article-1.1376845. Sesame Workshop
also published a guide for families. See Sesame Street,
“Little Children Big Challenges: Incarceration: A Guide
to Support Parents and Caregivers” (2013), available at
http://www.sesamestreet.org/cms_services/services?action=download&uid=784d4f44-425b-445a-842b86b5088cbcc5.
	 27	 Bryan Sykes and Becky Pettit, “Mass Incarceration,
Family Complexity, and the Reproduction of Childhood
Disadvantage,” Annals of the American Academy of
Political and Social Science 654 (1) (2014): 127–149,
available at http://ann.sagepub.com/content/654/1/127.abstract.
	 28	 Christopher Wildeman and Bruce Western, “Incarceration in Fragile Families,” The Future of Children 20 (2)
(2010): 157–177, available at http://prisonstudiesproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/west_wild_incarcfragfam2010.pdf.
	 29	 National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, “No
Safe Place: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S.
Cities” (2014), available at http://www.nlchp.org/
documents/No_Safe_Place.
	30	 Ibid.
	 31	 Greg A. Greenberg and Robert A. Rosenheck, “Jail
Incarceration, Homelessness, and Mental Health: A
National Study,” Psychiatric Services 59 (2) (2008):
170–177, available at http://pathprogram.samhsa.gov/
ResourceFiles/Greenberg.pdf.
	 32	 Timothy Hughes and Doris James Wilson, “Reentry
Trends in the United States” (Washington: Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 2002), available at bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/
content/pub/pdf/reentry.pdf.
	 33	 Paul Guerino, Paige M. Harrison, and William J. Sabol,
“Prisoners in 2010” (Washington: Bureau of Justice
Statistics, 2011), available at http://www.bjs.gov/
content/pub/pdf/p10.pdf; E. Ann Carson and Daniela
Golinelli, “Prisoners in 2012: Trends in Admissions and
Releases, 1991–2012” (Washington: Bureau of Justice
Statistics, 2013), p. 4, Table 2, available at http://www.
bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/p12tar9112.pdf.
	 34	 Todd D. Minton, “Jail Inmates at Midyear 2012
- Statistical Tables” (Washington: Bureau of Justice
Statistics, 2013), available at http://www.bjs.gov/
content/pub/pdf/jim12st.pdf.
	 35	 Laura M. Maruschak and Thomas P. Bonczar, “Probation
and Parole in the United States, 2012,” Bureau of Justice
Statistics (Revised April 2014), available at http://www.
bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ppus12.pdf
	 36	 The Department of Justice reports that 100.5 million
Americans have state criminal history records on file.
Some organizations, such as the National Employment
Law Project, or NELP, have contended that this figure
may overestimate the number of people with criminal
records, as individuals may have records in multiple
states. NELP thus suggests reducing the DOJ figure by
30 percent, which with 2012 data yields an estimate of
70.3 million individuals with criminal records. However,
NELP concedes that this figure is almost certainly an
underestimation. For the DOJ data, see Bureau of

Justice Statistics, Survey of State Criminal History
Information Systems, 2012. For a discussion of NELP’s
methodology that yields a more conservative estimate
using 2008 data, see Rodriguez and Emsellem, “65
Million ‘Need Not Apply’.”
	 37	 Society for Human Resource Management,
“Background Checking—The Use of Criminal
Background Checks in Hiring Decisions” (2012), p. 2,
available at http://www.shrm.org/research/
surveyfindings/articles/pages/criminalbackgroundcheck.aspx. Employers indicate that they conduct
background checks in hiring to avoid negligent hiring
claims, to enhance workplace safety, and to reduce
workplace theft, among other reasons. However, many
may use background screening simply to make quick
and rough judgments in their applicant pools. See
Scott H. Decker and others, “Criminal Stigma, Race,
Gender, and Employment: An Expanded Assessment of
the Consequences of Imprisonment for Employment”
(Washington: National Institute of Corrections, 2014), p.
52, available at http://nicic.gov/library/028063.
	 38	 Ronald Lewis, interview with author, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, November 24, 2014.
	 39	 Decker and others, “Criminal Stigma, Race, Gender, and
Employment.”
	40	 Ibid.
	 41	 Ibid., p. 54.
	42	 Ibid.
	 43	 Sharon M. Dietrich, “EEOC’s Criminal Record Guidance
One Year Later: Lessons from the Community”
(Washington: National Institute of Corrections, 2013),
available at http://nicic.gov/library/027679. See also
Decker and others, “Criminal Stigma, Race, Gender, and
Employment,” p. 52; Fields and Emshwiller, “As Arrest
Records Rise, Americans Find Consequences Can Last a
Lifetime.”
	 44	 Joan Petersilia, “When Prisoners Return to the
Community: Political, Economic and Social
Consequences,” Sentencing & Corrections (9) (2000): 3,
available at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/184253.
pdf.
	 45	 Western, “Collateral Costs.”
	 46	 Ibid., p. 40, 48.
	 47	 Ibid., p. 56.
	 48	 Blumstein and Nakamura, “Redemption in the Presence
of Widespread Criminal Background Checks,” p. 331.
	 49	 Schmitt and Warner, “Ex-offenders and the Labor
Market.”
	 50	 See, for example, Economy League of Greater
Philadelphia, “Economic Benefits of Employing
Formerly Incarcerated Individuals in Philadelphia”
(2010), available at http://economyleague.org/files/
ExOffenders_-_Full_Report_FINAL_revised.pdf.
	 51	 Focus group conducted in November 2013 by Program
of the District of Columbia for city-wide, community
listening study. Transcript on file with authors.
	 52	 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(k).
	 53	 See, for example, Green v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Co.,
523 F.2d 1290 (8th Cir. 1975), on appeal after remand,
549 F.2d 1158 (8th Cir. 1977).

69  Center for American Progress  |  One Strike and You’re Out

	 54	 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “EEOC
Policy Statement on the Issue of Conviction Records
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” available
at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/convict1.html (last
accessed November 2014).

	 71	 Love and others, Collateral Consequences of Criminal
Convictions.

	 55	 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
“Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest
and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.” (2012), available at http://
www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm.

	73	 Ibid.

	 56	 Ibid., p. 15.
	 57	 Ibid., p. 18.
	 58	 Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs,
“Directive 2013-02,” available at http://www.dol.gov/
ofccp/regs/compliance/directives/dir306.htm (last
accessed November, 2014).
	 59	 Employment and Training Administration, “Training
and Employment Guidance Letter No. 31-11,” available
at http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/corr_doc.
cfm?DOCN=9230 (last accessed November 2014).
	 60	 N.Y. Correct. Law §752.
	 61	 18 P.S. §9125(a).
	 62	 These policies are colorblind because they do not
require a showing of disparate racial impact. See
Margaret Love, Jenny Roberts, and Cecelia Klingele,
Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions: Law,
Policy and Practice, 2012-2013 ed. (Eagan, MN: Thomson
West, 2013), p. §6:14.
	 63	 Far too many employers continue to turn away job
seekers with even the most minimal or distant
connections to the criminal justice system. People with
criminal records, as well as employers, need to know
that there are limits on employer discretion and
remedies for violations.
	 64	 My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, Report to the President
(Executive Office of the President, 2014), available at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/
docs/053014_mbk_report.pdf.
	 65	 National Employment Law Project, “‘Ban the Box’ Is a
Fair Chance for Workers with Records” (2014), available
at http://www.nelp.org/page/-/SCLP/2014/
NELP-Fair-Chance-Factsheet-0914.pdf?nocdn=1.
	 66	 National Employment Law Project, “Seizing the ‘Ban the
Box’ Momentum to Advance a New Generation of Fair
Chance Hiring Reforms” (2014), p. 4, available at http://
www.nelp.org/page/-/SCLP/2014/Seizing-Ban-the-BoxMomentum-Advance-New-Generation-Fair-ChanceHiring-Reforms.pdf?nocdn=1.
	 67	 Southern Coalition for Social Justice, “The Benefits of
Ban the Box: A Case Study of Durham, NC” (2014),
available at http://www.southerncoalition.org/
wp-content/uploads/2014/10/BantheBox_WhitePaper-2.pdf; National Employment Law Project, “Seizing
the ‘Ban the Box’ Momentum to Advance a New
Generation of Fair Chance Hiring Reforms.”
	 68	 National Employment Law Project, “Seizing the ‘Ban the
Box’ Momentum to Advance a New Generation of Fair
Chance Hiring Reforms.”
	69	 Ibid.
	 70	 Brent Staples, “Target Bans the Box,” Taking Note,
October 29, 2013, available at http://takingnote.blogs.
nytimes.com/2013/10/29/target-bans-the-box/?_
php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1.

	 72	 Ibid. “Reoffending” usually means a new conviction, but
sometimes even an arrest will be disqualifying.

	 74	 The need for civil legal aid generally far outstrips
available resources. See Legal Services Corporation,
“Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current
Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-income Americans”
(2009), available at http://www.lsc.gov/sites/default/
files/LSC/pdfs/documenting_the_justice_gap_in_
america_2009.pdf. Demand for expungements is no
exception. See, for example, Meyli Chapin and others, A
Cost-Benefit Analysis of Expungements in Santa Clara
County (Stanford, CA: Stanford Public Policy Program,
2013), p. 12, available at https://publicpolicy.stanford.
edu/publications/cost-benefit-analysis-criminal-recordexpungement-santa-clara-county. This source discusses
a shortage of resources for expungements.
	 75	 Ram Subramanian and Rebecka Moreno, “Relief in
Sight?: States Rethink the Collateral Consequences of
Criminal Conviction, 2009-2014” (New York: Vera
Institute of Justice, forthcoming), p. 13.
	76	 Ibid.
	 77	 Love and others, Collateral Consequences of Criminal
Convictions.
	78	 Ibid.
	 79	 Madeline Neighly and Maurice Emsellem, “Wanted:
Accurate FBI Background Checks for Employment”
(New York: National Employment Law Project, 2013), p.
8, available at http://www.nelp.org/page/-/SCLP/2013/
Report-Wanted-Accurate-FBI-Background-ChecksEmployment.pdf?nocdn=1.
	 80	 Ibid., pp. 9–10.
	 81	 Ibid., pp. 11–13.
	 82	 Bureau of Justice Statistics/SEARCH National Focus
Group, “Report of the BJS/SEARCH National Focus
Group on Identity Theft Victimization and Criminal
Record Repository Operations” (2005), available at
http://www.search.org/files/pdf/NatFocusGrpIDTheftVic.pdf.
	 83	 The three companies referenced here are First
Advantage, SterlingBackcheck, and HireRight. See Max
Mihelich, “Special Report: More ‘Background’ Noise,”
Workforce, September 11, 2014, available at http://
www.workforce.com/articles/20728-special-reportmore-background-noise.
	 84	 Persis S. Yu and Sharon M. Dietrich, “Broken Records:
How Errors by Criminal Background Checking
Companies Harm Workers and Businesses” (Washington: National Consumer Law Center, 2012), pp. 15–29,
available at https://www.nclc.org/issues/brokenrecords.html.
	85	 Ibid.
	 86	 15 USC § 1681 et seq.
	 87	 Name has been changed to protect privacy and
confidentiality. Interview with author, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, November 12, 2014.
	 88	 For congressional findings that support the Second
Chance Act, see 42 U.S.C. 17501 (b)(14).

70  Center for American Progress  |  One Strike and You’re Out

	 89	 Office of Public and Indian Housing, “‘One-Strike And
You’re Out’ Screening and Eviction Guidelines for Public
Housing Authorities (HAs),” Memorandum to state and
area coordinators, public housing directors, and public
housing agencies, April 12, 1996, available at http://bit.
ly/HUD_one_strike.

	101 Elman and Reosti, “No Crystal Ball.” See also Marna
Miller and Irene Ngugi, “Impacts of Housing Supports:
Persons with Mental Illness and Ex-Offenders” (Olympia,
WA: Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2009).

	 90	 119 U.S.C. 13663 & 1437n.

	103 Oregon S.B. 91 was passed by the Oregon Legislature
and signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) in June
2013 and took effect on January 1, 2014. Oregon State
Legislature, Oregon Legislative Information, 2013
Regular Session, “S.B. 91,” available at https://olis.leg.
state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Measures/Overview/SB91.

	 91	 24 C.F.R. 960.204(a).
	 92	 24 C.F.R. 982.553.
	 93	 Shaun Donovan and Sandra B. Henriquez, Letter to PHA
executive directors, June 17, 2011, available at http://
csgjusticecenter.org/documents/0000/1130/HUD_letter.pdf.
	94	 Ibid.
	 95	 David Baker, “HANO Adopts New Criminal Background
Policy,” Louisiana Weekly, May 28, 2013, available at
http://www.louisianaweekly.com/hano-adopts-newcriminal-background-policy/; Richard A. Webster,
“HANO hires VERA to implement new criminal
background check policy,” The Times-Picayune, April 17,
2013, available at http://www.nola.com/politics/index.
ssf/2013/04/hano_hires_vera_to_implement_n.html.
	 96	 Mireya Navarro, “Ban on Former Inmates in Public
Housing Is Eased,” The New York Times, November 14,
2013, available at http://www.nytimes.
com/2013/11/15/nyregion/ban-on-former-inmates-inpublic-housing-is-eased.html?_r=0.
	 97	 David Thacher, “The Rise of Criminal Background
Screening in Rental Housing,” Law & Social Inquiry 33 (1)
(2008): 5, 12. Single-family rental firms also commonly
screen tenants based on criminal history, and, in some
cases, applicants can be turned away based on a
criminal conviction. See, for example, Invitation Homes
Rentals, “Resident Selection Criteria,” available at http://
invitationhomesrentals.com/Chicagorentalcriteria11.2012.pdf/ (last accessed November 2014).
	 98	 McGregor Smyth, “What’s a Civil Lawyer to Do?
Cross-Sector Collaboration in Re-entry: Building an
Infrastructure for Change,” Clearinghouse Review 41
(2007): 245–253, available at http://www.reentry.net/
ny/search/item.158662; Rebekah Diller, Alicia Bannon,
and Mitali Nagrecha, “Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to
Reentry” (New York: Brennan Center for Justice, 2010),
available at http://www.brennancenter.org/
publication/criminal-justice-debt-barrier-reentry.
	 99	 Merf Elman and Anna Reosti, “No Crystal Ball – The Lack
of Predictive Value of a Criminal Record in Residential
Tenant Screening and What It Means for Premises
Liability in Washington” (forthcoming); Thacher, “The
Rise of Criminal Background Screening in Rental
Housing.”
	100	 Elman and Reosti, “No Crystal Ball.” One website reads,
“Jury awards and litigation settlements for crimes such
as assault and rape inside of a rental property can cost
landlords hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not
millions.” See FindLaw, “FAQ -- Landlord Responsibilities:
Criminal Activities,” available at http://realestate.findlaw.
com/landlord-tenant-law/faq-landlord-responsibilities-criminal-activities.html#sthash.7TjI8rVM.E43VBxgM.
dpuf (last accessed November 2014). Another site
suggests that landlords can reduce their liability for
criminal attacks by “carefully screening possible tenants.”
See LegalMatch, “Landlord Liability for Criminal Acts,”
available at http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/
article/landlord-liability-for-criminal-activity.html (last
accessed November 2014). See also Heidi Lee Cain,
“Housing Our Criminals: Finding Housing for the
Ex-Offender in the Twenty-First Century,” Golden Gate
Law Review 33 (131) (2003): 149–150.

	102 Elman and Reosti, “No Crystal Ball.”

	104 San Francisco Police Code, Article 49, Sections
4901-4920 (enacted February 2014).
	105 The Fortune Society, Inc. v. Sandcastle Towers Housing
Development Fund Corp. et. al., No. 1:14-cv-6410 (E.D.N.Y.
filed October 2014); Mireya Navarro, “Lawsuit Says
Rental Complex in Queens Excludes Ex-Offenders,” The
New York Times, October 30, 2014, available at http://
www.nytimes.com/2014/10/31/nyregion/lawsuit-saysrental-complex-in-queens-excludes-ex-offenders.html.
	106 Some states provide inmates with a small sum of
money—sometimes referred to as “release
funds”—upon their release from prison. A review of
state policies found that, on average, release funds
amount to just $53, which is not enough to cover a full
day of living expenses if the individual needs
temporary lodging. See Douglas Evans, “The Debt
Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender
Reintegration” (New York: John Jay College of Criminal
Justice, 2014).
	107 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity
Reconciliation Act of 1996, H.R. 3734, 104th Cong. 2d
sess. (Library of Congress Thomas, 1996), available at
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c104:H.R.3734.
ENR:.
	108 The Sentencing Project, “A Lifetime of Punishment.”
	109 Ibid.
	110 Ibid.
	111 Marc Mauer, Cathy Potler, and Richard Wolf, “Gender
and Justice: Women, Drugs, and Sentencing Policy”
(Washington: The Sentencing Project, 1999), available
at http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/
dp_genderandjustice.pdf.
	112 The Sentencing Project, “A Lifetime of Punishment.”
	113 Ibid.
	114 Ibid.; Doris J. James and Lauren E. Glaze, “Mental Health
Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates” (Washington:
Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006), available at http://
www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/mhppji.pdf; Jennifer C.
Karberg and Doris J. James, “Substance Dependence,
Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002”
(Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005),
available at http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/
sdatji02.pdf; Caroline Wolf Harlow, “Prior Abuse
Reported by Inmates and Probationers” (Washington:
Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999), available at http://
www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/parip.pdf.
	115 See Judy Solomon, “The Truth About Health Reform’s
Medicaid Expansion and Inmates Leaving Jail”
(Washington: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,
2014), available at http://www.cbpp.org/files/6-2514health.pdf.

71  Center for American Progress  |  One Strike and You’re Out

	116 Individuals with felony drug convictions remain subject
to the ban if they are convicted of a subsequent
misdemeanor or felony drug offense within one year of
their conviction or if they are convicted of two
subsequent felony drug offenses. See Missouri S.B. 680,
Section 208.247 (Regular Session, 2014); Arthur
Delaney, “States Undo Food Stamp Felon Bans,”
HuffPost Politics, June 23, 2014, available at http://
www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/23/foodstamps_n_5515159.html.
	117 Missouri S.B. 680.
	118 For a detailed discussion of the rollout of prerelease
Medicaid application procedures in Oregon, see
Kamala Mallik-Kane and others, “Prison Inmates’
Prerelease Application for Medicaid: Take-up Rates in
Oregon” (Washington: Urban Institute, 2014), available
at http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/413199-prisoninmates-prerelease.pdf.
	119 For the letter to state Medicaid directors, see Glenn
Stanton, Letter to state Medicaid directors, May 25,
2004, available at http://www.medicaid.gov/
Medicaid-CHIP-Program-Information/By-Topics/
Long-Term-Services-and-Supports/Community-Living/
Downloads/Ending-Chronic-Homelessness-SMD-Letter.
pdf. For more information on how states can leverage
suspension of Medicaid for inmates, see Council of
State Governments Justice Center, “Medicaid and
Financing Health Care for Individuals Involved with the
Criminal Justice System” (2013), available at http://
csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/
ACA-Medicaid-Expansion-Policy-Brief.pdf.
	120 Council of State Governments Justice Center, “Medicaid
and Financing Health Care for Individuals Involved with
the Criminal Justice System.”
	121 Caroline Wolf Harlow, “Education and Correctional
Populations” (Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics,
2003), available at http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/
pdf/ecp.pdf.
	122 Ibid.
	123 Elizabeth Greenberg, Eric Dunleavy, and Mark Kutner,
“Literacy Behind Bars: Results From the 2003 National
Assessment of Adult Literacy Prison Survey”
(Washington: National Center for Education Statistics,
2007), available at http://nces.ed.gov/
pubs2007/2007473_1.pdf.
	124 Rebecca Vallas, Melissa Boteach, and Shawn Fremstad,
“Time for a 21st Century Social Contract,” Center for
American Progress, August 11, 2014, available at
https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/poverty/
news/2014/08/11/95391/time-for-a-21st-centurysocial-contract-3/; Adam Looney and Michael
Greenstone, “What Is Happening to America’s
Less-Skilled Workers? The Importance of Education and
Training in Today’s Economy” (Washington: The
Hamilton Project, 2011), available at http://www.
hamiltonproject.org/papers/what_is_happening_to_
americas_less-skilled_workers_the_importance_of_e/.
	125 In 2013, weekly earnings for the median high school
graduate were $651, compared with median earnings of
$1,108 for a college graduate. See Bureau of Labor
Statistics, “Earnings and unemployment rates by
educational attainment,” available at http://www.bls.gov/
emp/ep_table_001.htm (last accessed November 2014).
	126 Lois M. Davis and others, “Evaluating the Effectiveness
of Correctional Education” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND
Corporation, 2013), available at https://www.bja.gov/
Publications/RAND_Correctional-Education-MetaAnalysis.pdf.

	127 Ibid.
	128 Government Accountability Office, “Bureau of Prisons:
Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates,
Staff, and Infrastructure,” GAO-12-743, Report to
Congressional Requesters, September 2012, available
at http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648123.pdf.
	129 Sarah Rosenberg, “Restoring Pell Grants to Prisoners:
Great Policy, Bad Politics,” The Quick & the Ed,
November 5, 2012, available at http://www.
quickanded.com/2012/11/restoring-pell-grants-toprisoners-great-policy-bad-politics.html/.
	130 The 1998 amendments provided that students convicted
of possession of a controlled substance would be
ineligible for federal financial aid for one year following
their first offense, for two years following their second
offense, and indefinitely following their third offense.
Students convicted of sale of a controlled substance
would be ineligible for two years following their first
offense and indefinitely following their second offense. A
student whose aid was suspended under this policy
could regain eligibility for aid by completing an
approved drug treatment program and passing two
unannounced drug tests. See 1998 Amendments to the
Higher Education Act of 1965, Public Law 105-244, 105th
Cong. 2d sess. available at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/
highered/leg/hea98/sec483.html 105th Congress, 2nd
Session, 1998/ (Government Printing Office: 1998),
available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/
PLAW-105publ244/pdf/PLAW-105publ244.pdf.
	131 Students for Sensible Drug Policy, “Harmful Drug Law Hits
Home: How Many College Students In Each State Lost
Financial Aid Due to Drug Convictions?” (2006), available
at http://ssdp.org/assets/2013/05/State-By-State-Impactof-the-Aid-Elimination-Penalty.pdf.
	132 Section 8021(c) of Public Law 109-171 amended the
Higher Education Act to ban only students convicted of
drug offenses while receiving aid. Under current law,
students are ineligible for federal financial aid for one
year following their first offense, for two years following
their second offense, and indefinitely following their
third offense. Students convicted of sale of a controlled
substance are ineligible for two years following their
first offense and indefinitely following their second
offense. A student whose aid is suspended under this
policy may regain eligibility for aid by completing an
approved drug treatment program and passing two
unannounced drug tests. See Office of National Drug
Control Policy, FAFSA Facts (U.S. Department of
Education), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/
sites/default/files/ondcp/recovery/fafsa.pdf (last
accessed November 2014); Center for Community
Alternatives, “A Guide for Attorneys Representing
College Applicants and Students During and After
Criminal Proceedings” (2013), available at http://www.
communityalternatives.org/pdf/publications/
Criminal-History-Screening-in-College-AdmissionsAttorneyGuide-CCA-1-2013.pdf.
	133 Students may still be asked about criminal history if they
filled out a FAFSA in the past and answered “yes” to the
criminal history questions. Amy Solomon, interview with
author, Washington, D.C., September 25, 2014.
	134 Internal Revenue Service, “American Opportunity Tax
Credit: Questions and Answers,” available at http://
www.irs.gov/uac/American-Opportunity-Tax-Credit:Questions-and-Answers (last accessed November
2014); Rebecca Vallas, Melissa Boteach, and Rachel
West, “Harnessing the EITC and Other Tax Credits to
Boost Financial Stability and Economic Mobility”
(Washington: Center for American Progress, 2014),
available at http://cdn.americanprogress.org/
wp-content/uploads/2014/10/EITC-report10.8.pdf.

72  Center for American Progress  |  One Strike and You’re Out

	135 Michael F. Lovenheim and Emily G. Owens, “Does
Federal Financial Aid Affect College Enrollment?”
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 2012), available at http://
www.human.cornell.edu/pam/people/upload/
Finaid-2-22-2012.pdf.
	136 Human Rights Watch, “Decades of Disparity: Drug
Arrests and Race in the United States” (2009), available
at http://www.hrw.org/en/node/81110/.
	137 Vera Institute of Justice, “Pathways from Prison to
Postsecondary Education Project” (2014), available at
http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/overviewpathways-v3.pdf.
	138 Center for Community Alternatives, “The Use of
Criminal History Records in College Admissions
Reconsidered.”
	139 Ariel Kaminer, “3 New York Colleges to Drop Crime
Queries for Applicants,” The New York Times, October 26,
2014, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/
27/nyregion/three-new-york-colleges-will-omit-criminal-record-question-for-applicants.html.
	140 Ibid.
	141 Carl Reynolds and Jeff Hall, “Courts Are Not Revenue
Centers” (Williamsburg, VA: Conference of State Court
Administrators, 2012), available at http://cosca.ncsc.
org/~/media/Microsites/Files/COSCA/Policy%20Papers/
CourtsAreNotRevenueCenters-Final.ashx.

153 Alexes Harris, Heather Evans, and Katherine Beckett,
“Drawing Blood from Stones: Legal Debt and Social
Inequality in the Contemporary United States,”
American Journal of Sociology 115 (6) (2010): 1753–1799,
available at http://faculty.washington.edu/kbeckett/
articles/AJS.pdf.
	154 Special Commission to Study the Feasibility of
Establishing Inmate Fees, “Inmate Fees as a Source of
Revenue: Review of Challenges” (2011), available at
http://www.mass.gov/eopss/docs/eops/inmate-feefinal-7-1-11.pdf;.Vallas and Patel, “Sentenced to a Life of
Criminal Debt.”
	155 Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, “The Reform Initiative:
First Judicial District Criminal Courts, Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania, Interim Report” (2011), available at
http://www.courts.phila.gov/pdf/report/ri/
The-Reform-Initiative-Interim-Report.pdf.
	156 Sharon Dietrich and Rebecca Vallas, “First Judicial
District’s Collection of Legal Financial Obligations Has
Caused Suffering and Hardship Among Philadelphia’s
Poorest Residents” (Philadelphia, PA: Community Legal
Services, 2011), available at http://clsphila.org/
learn-about-issues/first-judicial-district’s-collectionlegal-financial-obligations-has-caused.
	157 Daniel Denvir, “Philly Courts Rein In Debt-Collection
Campaign,” Philadelphia CityPaper, October 9, 2014,
available at http://citypaper.net/news/philly-courtsreign-in-debt-collection-campaign/.

	142 Mike Maciag, “Skyrocketing Court Fines Are Major
Revenue Generator for Ferguson,” Governing, August
22, 2014, available at http://www.governing.com/
topics/public-justice-safety/gov-ferguson-missouricourt-fines-budget.html.

	158 Wash. Rev. Code 10.82.090, 4.56.110(4), 19.52.020
(2011); Vallas and Patel, “Sentenced to a Life of Criminal
Debt.”

	143 Diller, Bannon, and Nagrecha, “Criminal Justice Debt”;
Rebecca Vallas and Roopal Patel, “Sentenced to a Life of
Criminal Debt: A Barrier to Reentry and Climbing out of
Poverty,” Clearinghouse Review 46 (3–4) (2012): 131–141,
available at http://povertylaw.org/sites/default/files/
files/webinars/criminaldebt/chr_vallas.pdf.

	160 Ibid. See also Tina Rosenberg, “Paying for Their Crimes,
Again,” Opinionator, June 6, 2011, available at http://
opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/
paying-for-their-crimes-again/?_r=0.

	144 For example, in Pennsylvania, the courts frequently
refuse to perform the final steps of an expungement—
the actual removal of the notations from an individual’s
criminal history—if there is any money owed on
criminal debts, even for cases other than the one for
which expungement is being sought.
	145 Diller, Bannon, and Nagrecha, “Criminal Justice Debt”;
Vallas and Patel, “Sentenced to a Life of Criminal Debt.”
	146 See American Civil Liberties Union, “In for a Penny: The
Rise of America’s New Debtor’s Prisons” (2010), available
at https://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights-racial-justice/
penny-rise-americas-new-debtors-prisons.
	147 U.S.C. §§ 523(a)(19)(B)(iii).
	148 See, for example, 42 PA Cons. Stat. 9728 (2012).
	149 Diller, Bannon, and Nagrecha, “Criminal Justice Debt”;
Vallas and Patel, “Sentenced to a Life of Criminal Debt.”
	150 Diller, Bannon, and Nagrecha, “Criminal Justice Debt.”
	151 Ibid.
	152 Rebekah Diller, “The Hidden Costs of Florida’s Criminal
Justice Fees” (New York: Brennan Center for Justice,
2010), available at http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/
default/files/legacy/Justice/FloridaF&F.pdf.
	

	159 Vallas and Patel, “Sentenced to a Life of Criminal Debt.”

	161 Lauren Glaze and Laura Maruschak, “Parents in Prison
and Their Minor Children” (Washington: Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 2008), available at http://www.bjs.
gov/content/pub/pdf/pptmc.pdf.
	162 Jessica Pearson, “Building Debt While Doing Time: Child
Support and Incarceration,” Judges Journal 43 (1) (2004):
5–12, available at https://peerta.acf.hhs.gov/
uploadedFiles/BuildingDebt.pdf.
	163 Ibid.
	164 Ibid.
	165 Jeremy Travis, Elizabeth Cincotta McBride, and Amy
Solomon, “Families Left Behind: The Hidden Costs of
Incarceration and Reentry” (Washington: Urban
Institute, 2003), available at http://www.urban.org/
UploadedPDF/310882_families_left_behind.pdf.
	166 For more information on how failure to pay child
support can result in incarceration, see Office of Child
Support Enforcement, Turner v. Rogers Guidance (U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, 2012),
available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/
resource/turner-v-rogers-guidance.
	167 Administration for Children and Families, Section 1115
Demonstration Grants--Projects in Support of the Prisoner
Reentry Initiative (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, 2009), available at http://www.
indianahelpers.com/Newsletters_Flyers/HHS2009-ACF-OCSE-FD-0013.pdf.

73  Center for American Progress  |  One Strike and You’re Out

	168 Travis, McBride, and Solomon, “Families Left Behind.”
	169 See Amy E. Hirsch and others, “Every Door Closed:
Barriers Facing Parents With Criminal Records”
(Washington and Philadelphia, PA: Center for Law and
Social Policy and Community Legal Services, 2002),
available at http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/files/every_door_closed.pdf.
	170 See, for example, Office of Child Support Enforcement,
Managing Child Support Arrears (U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, 2013), available at http://
www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/managingchild-support-arrears.
	171 See, for example, William Elliott, Hyun-a Song, and
Ilsung Nam, “Small-dollar children’s savings accounts
and children’s college outcomes by income level,”
Children and Youth Services Review 35 (3) (2013):
572–585; William Elliott and Sondra Beverly, “Staying on
Course: The Effects of Savings and Assets on the
College Progress of Young Adults,” American Journal of
Education 117 (3) (2011): 343–374; William Elliott and
Sondra Beverly, “The Role of Savings and Wealth in
Reducing ‘Wilt’ between Expectations and College
Attendance,” Journal of Children and Poverty 17 (2)
(2011): 165–185.
	172 Raise Texas, “Child Support for College (CS4C),” available
at http://raisetexas.org/childsupportforcollegeinitiative/ (last accessed November 2014).
	173 Ibid.
	174 Kansas Department of Children and Families, “Child
Support Savings Initiative Program Description” (2014),
available at http://www.dcf.ks.gov/services/CSS/
Documents/CSSIProgramDescription.pdf.
	175 Tina Griego, “Locking up parents for not paying child
support can be a modern-day ‘debtor’s prison,’”
Storylines, September 26, 2014, available at http://
www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/
wp/2014/09/26/locking-up-parents-for-not-payingchild-support-can-be-a-modern-day-debtors-prison/.
	176 Ibid.
	177 Ibid.
	178 Ibid.
	179 Robert Gavin, “Lippman: Expunge non-violent
convictions,” Times Union, February 11, 2014, available
at http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/
Lippman-Expunge-non-violent-convictions-5223958.
php.
	180 Lisa Jessie and Mary Tarleton, 2012 Census of
Governments: Employment Summary Report
(Washington: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2014),
available at http://www2.census.gov/govs/apes/2012_
summary_report.pdf
	181 Devin Leonard, “The U.S. Postal Service Nears Collapse,”
Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine, May 26, 2011,
available at http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/
content/11_23/b4231060885070.htm
	182 See PICO National Network, “Fulfilling the Promise of
My Brother’s Keeper” (2014), available at http://www.
piconetwork.org/tools-resources/document/
My-Brothers-Keeper-Report-1.pdf; National
Employment Law Project, “Memorandum to the
Domestic Policy Council” (2014). On file with authors.
	183 See National Employment Law Project, “Memorandum
to the Domestic Policy Council.”

	184 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has
issued guidance of this sort for federal employees but
not federal job applicants. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission, “Preserving Access to the
Legal System:
A Practical Guide to Providing Employees
with Adequate Information about Their Rights under
Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws
and Regulations” (2014), available at http://www.eeoc.
gov/federal/preserving_access.cfm.
	185 See National Employment Law Project, A Scorecard on
the Post-9/11 Port Worker Background Checks: Model
Worker Protections Provide a Lifeline for People of Color,
While Major TSA Delays Leave Thousands Jobless During
the Recession (New York: July 2009), available at http://
www.nelp.org/page/-/SCLP/PortWorkerBackgroundChecks.pdf?nocdn=1
	186 The REDEEM Act, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), would, among other things,
create a federal expungement mechanism. S. 2567,
113th Congress, 2d. Sess. (2014), available at https://
www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senatebill/2567.
	187 Ind. Code 35-38-9-1 et seq.
	188 For more information on problem-solving courts and
other diversionary models, see Greg Berman and John
Feinblatt, Good Courts: The Case for Problem Solving
Justice (New York: The New Press, 2013). See also Greg
Berman, Reducing Crime, Reducing Incarceration (New
Orleans, LA: Quid Pro Quo Books, 2014).
	189 Connecticut General Statutes § 54-142a.
	190 Arkansas provides a model here, requiring expungements of misdemeanors to be approved in the absence
of “clear and convincing” evidence in opposition by the
prosecution. Subramanian and Moreno, “Relief in
Sight?” at 18.
	191 Rep. Robert Scott introduced the Fairness and Accuracy
in Employment Background Checks Act of 2013, H.R.
2865, 113th Congress, 1st Sess.; Rep. Keith Ellison
introduced the Accurate Background Check Act of
2013, H.R. 2999, 113th Congress, 1st Sess.; Sen. Cory
Booker and Sen. Rand Paul introduced the REDEEM Act,
S.B. 2567.
	192 The Federal Reentry Agency Housing “Reentry
Mythbuster” on public housing is extremely helpful and
clarifies public housing authorities’ obligations under
federal law. HUD’s letter to PHAs that urges them to
reform their overly restrictive admissions and eviction
policies regarding criminal records is similarly helpful.
However, formal HUD guidance that sets forth clear
standards governing landlord consideration of criminal
history, as well as a model policy for PHAs, is needed.
For the Reentry Mythbuster, see Council of State
Governments Justice Center, “Reentry Mythbuster!”,
available at http://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/
uploads/2012/12/Reentry_Council_Mythbuster_Housing.pdf (last accessed November 2014). For the letter,
see Donovan and Henriquez, Letter to PHA executive
directors.
	193 Another approach, taken by California, North Carolina
and Oregon, for example, is to waive support payments
during the time a parent is incarcerated and then to
restore support payments to the pre-incarceration level
60 days after release. These options are not optimal as
they allow large debts to accumulate and require
judicial action post-release to waive debts that accrued
during the period of incarceration; however, they are
preferable to no relief at all Pearson, “Building Debt
While Doing Time.”

74  Center for American Progress  |  One Strike and You’re Out

	194 Office of Child Support Enforcement, “State Child Support
Agencies with Programs to Ensure That Child Support
Orders Reflect Current Earnings,” (2012), available at http://
www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/state-childsupport-agencies-with-programs-to-ensure-that-childsupport (last accessed November 2014).
	195 State policies vary tremendously, but many states do
offer “debt compromise” under certain circumstances. A
listing of states and their policies can be found at Office
of Child Support Enforcement, “State Child Support
Agencies with Debt Compromise Policies” (2012) http://
www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/state-childsupport-agencies-with-debt-compromise-policies (last
accessed November 2014).
	196 Residential re-entry centers, or RRCs—also known as
“halfway houses”—offer a model for helping
incarcerated individuals transition from prison to
re-entry. Prerelease inmates can serve out the final
months of their sentences at an RRC, while receiving
employment services, substance abuse and mental
health treatment if needed, and assistance in locating
housing to which they can move upon release from the
RRC. See Federal Bureau of Prisons, “About Our Facilities:
Completing the transition,” available at http://www.bop.
gov/about/facilities/residential_reentry_management_
centers.jsp (last accessed November 2014).
	197 Through good-time credit—also referred to as “sentencing credits” or “good-conduct time”—federal inmates
are able to earn up to 47 days off their sentences each
year as a reward for good behavior. This policy
encourages rehabilitation, shortens sentences, and
saves taxpayer dollars. Good-time credit is especially
important because federal inmates are not eligible for
parole. For more information on good-time credit, see
Families Against Mandatory Minimums, “‘Good Time
Credit’ for Federal Prisoners,” available at http://famm.
org/projects/federal/us-congress/good-time-credit-forfederal-prisoners (last accessed November 2014).
	198 Office of Sen. Mike Lee, “Release: Lee and Durbin:
According to CBO, Smarter Sentencing Bill Would
Reduce Prison Costs by More than $4 Billion,” Press
release, September 15, 2014, available at http://www.
lee.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=73491e5d-ff48-45bf-b820-bc6711fc8e4e.
	199 For more information on problem-solving courts and
other diversionary models, see Greg Berman and John
Feinblatt, Good Courts: The Case for Problem Solving
Justice (New York: The New Press, 2013). See also Greg
Berman, Reducing Crime, Reducing Incarceration (New
Orleans, LA: Quid Pro Quo Books, 2014).
	200 For more information on NIBRS, see Federal Bureau of
Investigation, “National Incident-Based Reporting
System,” available at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/
ucr/nibrs (last accessed November 2014).
	201 A ballot measure approved by California’s voters,
Proposition 47, offers a model for how states can
dedicate the savings from criminal justice reforms to
other specific purposes. For a detailed discussion of
how Proposition 47 will accomplish this—and, more
generally, how states can reinvest savings from reduced
incarceration into more-productive investments—see
Michael Mitchell and Michael Leachman, “Changing
Priorities: State Criminal Justice Reforms and
Investments in Education” (Washington: Center on
Budget and Policy Priorities, 2014), available at http://
www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=4220.

	202 See Department of Justice, Smart on Crime: Reforming
the Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century (2013),
available at http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/
ag/legacy/2013/08/12/smart-on-crime.pdf.
	203 See Eric Holder, Letter to state attorneys general, April
18, 2011, available at http://csgjusticecenter.org/
wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Reentry_Council_AG_
Letter.pdf.
	204 In 2009, the National Conference of Commissioners on
Uniform State Laws authorized the Uniform Collateral
Consequences of Conviction Act, which urges states to
compile and inventory collateral consequences into a
single document and to mitigate them where possible
to support re-entry. See Subramanian and Moreno,
“Relief in Sight.”
	205 Prominent examples include President Obama, Sen.
Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Rep.
Robert Scott (D-VA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Paul
Ryan (R-WI), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Gov. Rick Perry
(R-TX), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R),
and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover
Norquist.
	206 Kasie Hunt, “Bill Clinton: Prison sentences to take center
stage in 2016,” MSNBC, October 8, 2014, available at
http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/bill-clinton-prisonsentences-take-center-stage-2016.
	207 Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan, “Prison reform: A smart
way for states to save money and lives,” The Washington
Post, January 7, 2011, available at http://www.
washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/06/AR2011010604386.html.
	208 Eric Holder, Remarks to the American Bar Association,
August 12, 2013, available at http://www.justice.gov/
opa/speech/attorney-general-eric-holder-deliversremarks-annual-meeting-american-bar-associations.
	209 Amanda Terkel, “Cory Booker and Rand Paul Team Up On
Criminal Justice Reform,” HuffPost Politics, July 8, 2014,
available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/08/
cory-booker-rand-paul_n_5566800.html.
	210 Grover Norquist, “Conservatives must police bottom
line on criminal justice,” Orange County Register,
February 18, 2011, available at http://www.ocregister.
com/articles/prison-288870-government-criminal.html.
	211 Hunt, “Bill Clinton: Prison sentences to take center stage
in 2016.”
	212 The White House, “The 2004 State of the Union Address:
Complete Transcript of President Bush’s Speech to
Congress and the Nation,” Press release, January 20,
2004, available at http://whitehouse.georgewbush.org/
news/2004/012004-SOTU.asp.
	213 Michael Schrerer, “2012 Person of the Year: Barack
Obama, the President,” Time, December 19, 2012,
available at http://poy.time.com/2012/12/19/
person-of-the-year-barack-obama/5/.
	214 Alex Seitz-Wald and Elahe Izadi, “Criminal Justice
Reform, Brought to You by CPAC,” National Journal,
March 7, 2014, available at http://www.nationaljournal.
com/domesticpolicy/criminal-justice-reform-broughtto-you-by-cpac-20140307.
	215 National Employment Law Project, “Memorandum to
the Domestic Policy Council.”

75  Center for American Progress  |  One Strike and You’re Out

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