View Poll Results: Should Criminal Records Not be Available to the Public?

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  • Yes, limit access to police agencies, courts, defense attorneys and proscutors

    10 47.62%
  • No, we have a right to know about a person's criminal record.

    11 52.38%
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Thread: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

  1. #1
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    Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    I saw a poll which asked "Should Criminal Records Be Erased After the Sentence is Served?" I think the pollster asked the wrong question (for the right reasons though).

    The REAL question should be about public access. Thanks to data-mining companies and Background Check services, every-ones dirty laundry is open to the public. That's because we all seem to think we have a right to know everyone else's secrets, while at the same time wanting to keep our own from public view.

    At issue for me is the concern that convicted felons who cannot re-integrate into society upon release, will most certainly return to a life of crime. It may surprise most people but there are approximately 65 million adult American citizens with a criminal record. This makes them effectively un-employable because they are asked on most job applications if they have been convicted of some level of crime (misdemeanor or felony). If they say yes, they don't get the job. If they say no, a background check results in their being fired a few months after hire for "lying on their application."

    Our society works on the presumption that if a person has commited even one crime he/she is no longer to be trusted, ever! This leads to a form of social exile, forcing ex-felons to congregate and associate leading to eventual recidivism.

    Rather than erasing a record upon release, why not simply leave the record access to police agencies, prosecutors, and the courts? That's the question. Your thoughts?
    Last edited by Captain Adverse; 06-23-13 at 05:27 AM.

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    Re: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    I think once you've done your punishment it should be erased. If that's too much to ask, at least make it confidential between the person and the judicial system.

    Everyone makes mistakes, especially when we're young. Having crimes you've already atoned for follow you for the rest of your life is ridiculous, and only preventing people from reintegrating.
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    Re: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    There are methods of "erasing" criminal records available in most American jurisdictions, though they are not all applied equally. Some offer relief in the form of "expungements." In some jurisdictions this allows the court the person was convicted in to review the record at the end of probation or parole and then in the interests of justice, reverse the conviction and dismiss the charges. In other jurisdictions this can only be done for someone who was arrested but not charged, or charged but not convicted. In both cases the records are expunged and no longer public.

    The problem with this is it is usually reserved for people who have either not been convicted or the conviction did not lead to a prison term. The only two options for persons sent to prison are pardons or certificate of rehabilitation. However, neither of these will expunge the records, and they will show up on any background check.

    Finally, you don't necessarily want a record to be "erased" immediately. The person may be of a mindset to commit a new crime right away, and a prior record is necessary to determine a new sentence based on how "habitual" the felon is. Sufficient time should pass before such records should be erased entirely. Perhaps 5 years for misdemeanors, and 10 for felonies?

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    Re: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    If our justice system was designed to rehabilitate criminals, I'd agree to making conviction records inaccessible. Unfortunately, our criminal justice system is designed to segregate and punish convicts, which makes criminals bitter and does little to meliorate their threat to society. As a result, convicts are are more likely to commit crimes and employers should be cognizant of the risk.

    If we were going to implement a blackout like you advocate, I'd add in a stipulation that a citizen should be allowed to see what records the government has on them.

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    Re: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    Would this extend to corporations as well? If an auto maker is found to have been criminally negligent in the creation or sale of a product, would that be hidden as well?

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    Re: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    I don't know about the US, but in Canada when a criminal background check is done no conviction/sentence information related to the person is disclosed to anyone other than the person. If you try to get a job in business where the security of people or property is involved, or if you want to purchase a gun, or if you want to volunteer in an activity involving children, I believe you should be required to have a criminal background check done. Particularly, as it relates to involvement with children, the general public demands it. As long as your "rap sheet" isn't disclosed to anyone other than police or yourself, I see no problems here.
    "Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views." William F. Buckley Jr.

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    Re: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wiseone View Post
    Would this extend to corporations as well? If an auto maker is found to have been criminally negligent in the creation or sale of a product, would that be hidden as well?
    Unless this changes the system that allows corporations to pay a slap-on-the-wrist bribefine to prevent any criminal wrongdoing from ever going to court, why would they ever need it? Or do you mean hiding the fact that they were slapped on the wrist in the first place?

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    Re: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    I think the general public, and more specifically employers, have a right to know if the individual in question has a history of violent or sexual offenses, especially if they wish to live or work in close proximity to demographic groups they have harmed in the past.

  9. #9
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    Re: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Adverse View Post
    ......
    At issue for me is the concern that convicted felons who cannot re-integrate into society upon release, will most certainly return to a life of crime. It may surprise most people but there are approximately 65 million adult American citizens with a criminal record. This makes them effectively un-employable because they are asked on most job applications if they have been convicted of some level of crime (misdemeanor or felony). If they say yes, they don't get the job. If they say no, a background check results in their being fired a few months after hire for "lying on their application."
    ....
    I am sorry but I believe that is more often myth than reality. The things that led them to becoming felons would be more the issue than society shunning them. I know too many felons who have good jobs to believe that to be the sole factor in somebody not being able to get a job as often as some would have you believe. In addition, two of my businesses require bonds on some employees and the remaining people to be bondable i.e. no felonies. I have no control over that. I simply cannot hire felons in those businesses.

  10. #10
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    Re: Should Criminal Records Not Be Available to the Public?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fisher View Post
    I am sorry but I believe that is more often myth than reality. The things that led them to becoming felons would be more the issue than society shunning them. I know too many felons who have good jobs to believe that to be the sole factor in somebody not being able to get a job as often as some would have you believe. In addition, two of my businesses require bonds on some employees and the remaining people to be bondable i.e. no felonies. I have no control over that. I simply cannot hire felons in those businesses.
    Actually it is not a myth. I spent some time as an adjudicator in my state's Unemployment office. During interviews with several dozen employers regarding the firing of individuals who lied about prior convictions on their applications, I asked would they have been hired if they told the truth. In EVERY single case I was told they would not have hired the individual if he had told the truth.

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