Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur the collaborators are his.
There are more than 70 million people in our country who have a history of conviction. This translates to about one in three Americans. The obstacles we have that we have records are huge. You would think that after we have completed our sentences, we should be able to move forward with our lives.
But the reality is that we face a multitude of barriers, often for life, that prevent us from doing essential things, such as stable jobs, educational opportunities, professional licenses, safe houses, and more. In fact, the National Institute of Justice estimates 44,000 such barriers. These can severely limit or completely impede the ability of a person with a criminal record. They cannot function effectively in society or participate in a meaningful way in civic, economic and community life.
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First point to take: People with previous convictions face a series of barriers to getting a paid job
Due to widespread discrimination and stigma, people with a criminal record are routinely barred from employment opportunities. Even after he had fulfilled his sentences some time ago. Whether it’s a former CEO or a commercial worker, once an individual is marked with the scarlet letter of a conviction, it doesn’t matter who it was before. Many employers will quickly set aside requests from previously jailed individuals. The same goes for potential investors who will deny meetings with business owners who have a history of conviction.
Predictably, the resulting economic insecurity, pain, shame, and despair can be devastating. Not just for us as individuals, but also for our families. People at all levels of the workforce are affected. However, systemic inequalities and racially biased police and prosecution in our country have yielded disproportionate rates of arrest, imprisonment, and conviction among low-income color communities across the country.
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Second to take: There is a simple solution: provide people with a clean slate
Across the country, states are working to pass legislation to ensure that people like me who have completed their sentences can clear our records automatically. There are many states where application-based sealing is currently an option. But this process is often incredibly expensive and costly. Therefore, a significant number of eligible people are prevented from having their records cleared. Efforts to automatically delete people’s records, also known as clean slates, help make it possible for all eligible people to start over. And, without having to overcome bureaucratic hurdles or spend money they don’t have.
When people have fulfilled their time and paid off their debt to society, we deserve a second chance. A clean slate, erased from the paralyzing and proverbial scarlet letter. With the automatic removal of records, this second opportunity can be fully realized: stable jobs, commercial licenses, companies and secure housing would again be within our reach. The clean slate can give us a chance to really move forward with our lives.
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Third point to take away: the clean slate can help us all
The blank slate can give me and other people with a history of convictions a real opportunity for healing, justice, and meaningful participation in the economy and the communities we all share. It can also improve the well-being of families and entire communities. People who want to work hard, support their families and contribute to their neighborhoods and local communities should be able to do so. We all know that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to continue living in poverty throughout their lives, a brutal cycle known as intergenerational poverty.
Clean slate policies can help break this cycle. Furthermore, the benefit of clean slate policies to our economy as a whole cannot be overstated. The ACLU estimates that, at the national level, excluding people with a history of conviction costs the economy between $ 78 billion and $ 87 billion in lost national product each year. With the clean slate, employers looking to grow their businesses could take advantage of a large number of skilled workers. Without a whiteboard, we run the risk of closing large amounts of human potential indefinitely. Amid rising labor shortages, the great need for untapped talent is only increasing. Last but not least, the blackboard can help us to start overcoming the racial injustice that prevails in our country by breaking down unjust barriers. Those who prevent too many black and brown Americans from reaching their full potential.
From social justice activists to Fortune 500 companies, the clean slate has a wide variety of followers who believe in its immense potential. In New York, for example, the clean slate campaign has garnered the support of major unions and business leaders such as JPMorgan Chase. Also, religious leaders, crime survivors, civil rights groups, law firms, and health advocates. Everyone understands that it’s not just about giving people a second chance at what needs to be done, it’s about what needs to be done. As they say, a rising tide lifts all the boats.
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