One in four Americans has a criminal record, and a criminal record can be a big obstacle to housing and employment. The ACLU of Washington’s Second Chances Project provides direct legal services to individuals who want to reduce the barriers posed by criminal records. We also provide resources and community education on criminal records issues.
Over the past few years, numerous people have called the ACLU to report being denied jobs or housing on account of criminal records, even when those people have completely reformed their lives. For example, one ACLU client was fired after a background check revealed a crime that occurred over 30 years ago. Another has been denied
more than 20 rental apartments because of a minor misdemeanor that occurred 8 years ago. Though these practices violate federal anti-discrimination law, they appear widespread.
Denying jobs and housing to people with criminal records denies them the opportunity to work hard, support their families, and rebuild their lives. It disproportionately impacts people of color, who are arrested, charged, and convicted at higher rates than Caucasians. It also increases the risk that people will re-offend, and thereby decreases
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