These barriers, said Martin, have broad economic implications for those who want to move on and become productive citizens. Even more importantly, a parent’s criminal record has huge consequences for families and children. A criminal record negatively impacts a family’s well-being in terms of income, savings and assets, education, housing, and family strength and stability.
For example, state hiring laws bar people with certain types of convictions from more than 800 occupations nationwide. Also, Vallas said, nine out of 10 employers use background checks, and those who have a felony drug conviction are banned from receiving government assistance. As a result, more than 60 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed a year after being released. Those who do find jobs receive 40 percent less pay than those who have never been incarcerated.
CAP pointed to a study by the National Institutes of Justice that found that “any arrest during one’s life diminishes job prospects more than any other employment-related stigma.”
The report points to a study by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which found that “85 percent of returning citizens face criminal-justice debts.” These debts include fees for a public defender, GPS ankle bracelets, pay-to-stay fees, or late-payment fees. In some instances, outstanding debts can prevent access to credit, housing, employment, or public assistance the report found, all of which can impact a family’s chances of upward mobility.
Those with a criminal record also experience limited access to higher education. The report found that “an estimated 66 percent of colleges and universities use background checks in the admissions process.” Also, federal law prohibits those with felony drug convictions from receiving certain grants.
The lack of resources for educational attainment has a devastating impact on children and families. Those who lack a high school diploma or post-secondary education have limited earning potential, which can impact family income and assets. But also, the report noted, a parent’s education level is directly linked to a child’s long-term educational prospects. Children whose parents have less education are more likely to experience poverty.
Another barrier is housing discrimination. In its research, the CAP report found that many local public-housing authorities “will evict or deny housing to an individual or even to an entire household if one household member has had an arrest, even if that arrest did not lead to a conviction.” In addition, it noted, “four out of five landlords use criminal background checks to screen out potential tenants.”
The report from the Ella Baker Center found that “79 percent of returning citizens reported being denied housing due to their criminal history.”
Housing instability can have long-term consequences for children the CAP report noted. For example, “multiple moves can lead to disruptions in education” and children are “less likely to complete high school, enroll in post-secondary education, or complete a degree than their counterparts who had stable housing during childhood.”