Expungement alert: more seeking to wipe out convictions

If  you’ve every considered trying to get an expungement, you might want to check out this article in today’s Wall Street Journal.   Apparently, a tough job market combined with the fact that the vast majority of exmployers now do background checks  is prompting more ex-offenders to try to clear their records.

I’m still not sure I’d recommend this route, unless you’ve got the most minor of convictions and were charged in a more lenient state.  (You can check out the rules for your jurisdiction here ).  As the author rightly points out, sometimes even after you go through all the hassle and cost to get your record cleared, employers can find out about it  in other ways: through  arrest records, police reports, news stories and even, sadly, Google. 

That said, the article contains some data worth remembering:

 Background checks have become more commonplace in the years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and cheaper. More than 80% of companies performed such checks in 2006, compared with fewer than 50% in 1998, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, an association of HR professionals.

And this: 

Even 10 years ago, background checks tended to be cursory or expensive. Now, database providers can quickly access information from the country’s approximately 3,100 court jurisdictions, charging $10 or less for simple checks.

There’s another great reminder in the piece about why honesty about your record — as painful as it is, and no matter how long it’s been — is still the best policy. One man, arrested more than 20 years  ago on a questionable assault charge, didn’t disclose this on his application and was denied work after his record was discovered in a background check.

“If someone has a criminal history, we can work with them,” said the company’s general counsel Mike. Lehman. “But if they have one and lie to us, that’s pretty ominous.”

What’s most interesting to me: the  fact this issue has come to front burner precisely because people who have been working for years — some  at jobs they got  before background checks were so universal  — are only now finding their records coming back to haunt them. That these are ex-offenders with steady work records, who really have put their pasts behind them and lived productively until the economy tanked, could be good news.  It shows that people can change and could lead to greater sympathy and reform.
Not unlike the renewed focus on discrimination that I wrote about here.  As a side note, it’s interesting the WSJ poll seems to be running 2 to 1  in support of non-violent ex-offenders being granted expungements.

What do you all think?

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1 Comment

Filed under criminal records, expungement, jobs ex-offenders

One response to “Expungement alert: more seeking to wipe out convictions

  1. Pingback: Can you really erase your record? « Out and Employed

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