The Eternal Criminal Record

February 20, 2020

There have been several articles about James Jacobs’ The Eternal Criminal Record. The book shows how the current record-keeping system in the U.S. “presents a public-policy conundrum for American criminal justice: The more information we collect and share about suspected criminals and actual offenders, the easier it is to identify and discriminate against those marked individuals,” says Kevin Lapp, an associate professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles—thereby increasing the risks of recidivism. In his forthcoming article, Lapp argues that criminal record-keeping in the United States is “exceptionally public, exceptionally punitive, and exceptionally permanent.”

The issue presents difficult issues – by improving the information contained in criminal records, we can limit inaccuracies. However, since records are, for the most part, public, those with records have a hard time ever shedding their pasts and moving on. Possible solutions include limiting access to records, adopting legal employment discrimination protection against those with criminal records, or preventing employers from accessing arrest records. With the rash of police overreaching and arrests that result in dropped charges, we must focus attention on this problem, or more people will have lifelong employment problems.