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Cornell Criminal Records Panel Study (CRPS) Reports

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    Criminal Record Inaccuracies and the Impact of a Record Education Intervention on Employment-Related Outcomes
    Wells, Martin; York Cornwell, Erin; Barrington, Linda; Bigler, Esta; Enayati, Hassan; Vilhuber, Lars (2020-01-02)
    More than 70 million Americans have some form of criminal record, which can limit their access to employment opportunities, eligibility for occupational licensure, and public benefits. The use of criminal background checks in the hiring process has also dramatically increased over the past decade, and there is reason to think that many criminal records are inaccurate. Prior research has not determined the extent of errors on criminal records. We also do not know educating individuals about their records may promote efforts toward record correction and improve employment and other economic outcomes. The present study harnesses a unique opportunity to investigate the accuracy of criminal records and the impact of a record education intervention on job-seeking behaviors, employment opportunities, and economic outcomes for people with criminal records. We focus on class members of the Gonzalez, et al. v. Pritzker class action lawsuit. This group of individuals applied for a job with the 2010 Census, but they were denied employment because of a criminal background check. As part of the lawsuit settlement, class members were offered the choice of one of two remedies: a criminal records intervention that educates them about their criminal record and their related employment rights, or early notice of hiring for the 2020 Census. Individuals who chose the record education intervention are provided with a copy of their criminal record and a training session to review their record and provide information about their rights when applying for jobs or other employment-related opportunities. In addition, all class members in the two remedy groups were invited to participate in the first two waves of the Cornell Criminal Records Panel Survey (CCRPS). We combine data from the panel survey with administrative data from the records training (including actual criminal records) to address two main research questions. First, we ask: What is the prevalence of errors in criminal records of members of this class, and how are these errors distributed across racial/ethnic and sociodemographic groups? Using data from the record education intervention, we describe the errors discovered on participants’ records and how those errors vary across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Second, we ask: How does understanding one’s criminal record and relevant legal rights affect job- seeking behaviors, employment opportunities, economic attainment, and social engagement? To address this question, we leverage a quasi-experimental design, comparing class members who receive the criminal records intervention to those who opt into early notice of Census 2020 hiring, in order to examine how the criminal records intervention shapes job- seeking and other behaviors.