Pew has a story out this week, Felony Conviction Rates Have Risen Sharply, But Unevenly, that could add fodder to the debate about criminal background checks and legislation to ease reentry. Naturally, we generally support provisions to assist reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals, but not at the expense of limiting our members’ or employers’ access to criminal history information. Pew reports that the
new estimates [of increased conviction rates] only go through 2010, before many states began to reclassify some crimes, scale back sentencing and take other steps to lower incarceration rates and ease ex-offenders back into society. But they are the first attempt to gauge the state-by-state buildup of felons during a nationwide, decades-long surge in punishment: Less than 2 million people were in prison or jail or on parole or probation in 1980, compared with more than 7 million in 2007.
The Pew story notes the work states have been doing to assist in the reentry of former convicts. This is true “[e]ven [with] red-state conservatives [who] support moves to erase the stigma and help people with felony convictions rejoin their communities.” The article notes that “Marc Levin, vice president of criminal justice policy at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, said his group supported legislation in Texas and elsewhere to ease the way for felons to return to the community.”
Eric J. Ellman is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) in Washington, DC. He also served for eight months as Interim President and CEO of the Association. More