Not only can a single conviction be a life sentence to poverty, but its ripple effects impact families and communities.
The stigma associated with convictions often outlasts the sentence served, or the window in which most recidivism occurs (four to seven years). For many, that stigma is reason alone to deny access to jobs, schools and other important social institutions. People with convictions face higher rates of unemployment, homelessness and poverty.
And it doesn’t end there. Without the ability to reintegrate into the community, it becomes very challenging to provide for a family and create more opportunities for the next generation. Some of the collateral consequences of convictions include economic disparities that slow child cognitive development, school performance, and education outcomes, negatively impacting employment and earnings in adulthood. Children with at least one parent incarcerated during their lifetime are six times more likely to be justice-involved as youth. Cycles of multigenerational poverty in turn can lead to further involvement in the justice system and incarceration or reincarceration.
On a bigger scale, this only widens existing economic and social inequity and can lead to reduced investments in neighborhoods and communities and disenfranchisement from civic participation. With between 70 and 100 million Americans carrying a conviction, this is much more than an individual or even a family problem.
Record clearing is one way to end this cycle and stop the bias that perpetuates it. Clearing a conviction essentially puts it out of the public view, so that the person can no longer be discriminated against on the basis of any past event. With a cleared record, they can put the past behind them and look to a better future.