Five Minutes of Common Ground: Criminal Records

September 20, 2022

America is being ripped apart at the seams over policy disagreements, right?

Obviously we have major divisions, but guess what: it’s not over policy. In fact, people across the political spectrum agree on a lot.

Consider this: around a third of adults in the U.S. currently have a criminal record. A lot of those people were arrested but never actually charged for a crime, or were charged but never convicted. And often what we’re talking about here are minor, non-violent offenses.

Still, most states have laws that allow employers and licensing boards to disqualify people based on these criminal records, as does the federal government.

What do regular people think about this?

Well, according to an in-depth survey by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, 81% of people think employers and licensing boards should be prohibited from rejecting or firing someone because they were arrested or charged if they weren’t actually convicted. That includes:

  • 72% of Republicans
  • 90% of Democrats
  • 80% of Independents

79% of people said we shouldn’t disqualify someone for a petty, non-violent crimes, including:

  • 68% of Republicans
  • 89% of Democrats
  • 79% of Independents

74% said there should be a limit on how long misdemeanors and felonies can be used to disqualify someone, as long as the person has not committed a crime since their sentence was completed.

79% supported new restrictions when it comes to public housing authorities using criminal records by to reject applicants or evict tenants and their families.

77% of people like the idea of allowing someone who’s been arrested but not charged, or charged but not convicted, to have their record sealed, for a minor cost, which means they wouldn’t need to disclose their arrest or charge with someone like an employer or landlord.

There’s one proposal in the survey that didn’t get bipartisan support: automatically restoring someone’s right to vote if they’ve had a felony conviction and completed their sentences.

  • 87% of Democrats
  • 67% of Independents
  • 48% of Republicans

Still, it’s worth noting that a little over half of Republicans said that proposal was at least tolerable, suggesting that there might be some room for compromise.

Obviously we don’t agree on everything, but this is just one more example of how Americans aren’t as divided as we think.

If that resonates with you, send this video to someone you disagree with and see if it sparks a conversation.

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