Stigma of Record Stays with Individual, Regardless of Crime Type, Conviction

What collateral damage comes from having a criminal record?

According to a new qualitative study co-authored by Charles Loeffler, Jerry Lee Assistant Professor of Criminology, the history can stay with an individual long after a case finishes, regardless of how minor the crime, whether charges were dismissed without a conviction, and whether that person’s rehabilitation efforts were successful. This is particularly true in a digital age that makes such records much more accessible to potential employers, landlords, and others.

To better understand the experience of someone in today’s economy living with a criminal past, Loeffler and his co-author went to a walk-in clinic working to help people wipe clean their records. Individuals there received information about the research, then had the chance to participate in a 30- to 45-minute interview while waiting to begin the expungement process.

“Recruiting participants at the clinic provided us considerable variation in the seriousness of what people had been arrested for and charged with, as well as what remedies they’d be eligible for. We focused on their subjective experiences,” says Loeffler. “We wanted to understand how their experiences differed depending on the extent of their criminal record.”

Loeffler's findings were published in the August issue of the journal Criminology.

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