Report Recommends Legislative Solutions to Increase Juvenile Record Confidentiality

Posted March 10, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog report recommends solutions to Increase confidentiality 2016

Young peo­ple have a great capac­i­ty for change. Their juve­nile records tell the sto­ry of some­thing they once did, not the sto­ry of who they are. Yet too often juve­nile records stand in the way of youth reach­ing their full poten­tial, accord­ing to a new report by the Juve­nile Law Cen­ter.

The JLC’s pol­i­cy paper argues that chil­dren have the right to grow up with­out records of their court involve­ment cre­at­ing bar­ri­ers to their future suc­cess. Future Inter­rupt­ed: The Col­lat­er­al Dam­age Caused by Pro­lif­er­a­tion of Juve­nile Records shares real-life exam­ples of the detri­men­tal effects of juve­nile records and how these records are shared pub­licly. Back­ground checks too often dis­close inac­cu­rate or con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion. Juve­nile record infor­ma­tion has lit­tle rel­e­vance in a job appli­ca­tion or inter­view. Employ­ers must focus their inquiries away from mis­takes a kid made in the past and toward the youth’s strengths and potential.

Nine­ty-five per­cent of youth with records have been arrest­ed for minor offens­es, and the vast major­i­ty of youth do not reof­fend. In fact, research shows that indi­vid­u­als with con­sis­tent employ­ment are unlike­ly to reoffend.

The stakes are even high­er for youth who have not yet had a chance to land their first job or start a career. Juve­nile records can poten­tial­ly dis­qual­i­fy youth from job oppor­tu­ni­ties and pre­vent youth from devel­op­ing favor­able work his­to­ries. Also, records can impede future mil­i­tary ser­vice and access to pub­lic hous­ing, dri­ving priv­i­leges and education.

The goal of the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem is to reha­bil­i­tate kids and give them a sec­ond chance,” said Nate Balis, direc­tor of Casey’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. For sys­tem-involved kids to thrive as adults, they need edu­ca­tion, good jobs and strong con­nec­tions to fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty. We should do every­thing we can to remove bar­ri­ers to achiev­ing that, and juve­nile records are a per­fect exam­ple of bar­ri­ers that serve nobody’s interest.”

The report, which was fund­ed by the Foun­da­tion, looks at how juve­nile records are treat­ed across the coun­try. While states are begin­ning to roll back some poli­cies in favor of a more nuanced approach to juve­nile records, pub­lic acces­si­bil­i­ty remains wide­spread, with access typ­i­cal­ly turn­ing on the age of the juve­nile, the nature of the offense or the num­ber of offens­es. Thir­ty-three states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia make cer­tain types of juve­nile record infor­ma­tion pub­licly avail­able. Research shows that mak­ing juve­nile records avail­able to the pub­lic does not make com­mu­ni­ties safer.

The report con­cludes that chil­dren should not be stymied by their records in their efforts to obtain edu­ca­tion and employ­ment or to become valu­able con­tribut­ing adults. It ends on this note: Leg­isla­tive reform is one path to this goal. But we must also change the cul­tur­al cli­mate. Chil­dren must be held account­able for their delin­quent con­duct, but they must not be defined by that con­duct. Sec­ond chances mean noth­ing if the chance is illusory.”

Read the report and learn more about how juve­nile records are treat­ed across the country

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