Redemption in the Presence of Widespread Criminal Background Checks
Date of Original Version
Abstract or Description
Recent advances in information technology and growing concerns about employer liability have combined to increase the demand for criminal background checks. Also, since over 14 million arrests are made each year, many individuals will have criminal history records. As a result, many individuals who have redeemed by avoiding involvement in crime and are seeking employment will be haunted by the record of a crime committed a long time ago, a record that may well indicate a low probability of future crime risk. It is known that the probability of recidivism declines with time "clean" since a last arrest, so that there is some T* such that someone with no arrest for T* years is of no greater risk than any demographically similar counterpart. The problem is that we have very little information on the appropriate value of T*, and how that value varies with the crime type of the earlier event (C1) and the offender’s age at that event (A1). This paper estimates the degree to which a past criminal record loses its relevance in terms of its ability to predict future offending. Data obtained from a state criminal-history repository allow us to estimate the hazard of rearrest. This paper looks for its intersection with the demographically appropriate age-crime curve, representing the risk of arrest for the general population. The findings of this research can contribute to the development of relevancy guidelines for the users of background-checking services and for policy makers interested in enhancing employment opportunities in developing regulations regarding the dissemination of such records.