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The Criminal Justice and Employment Initiative (CJEI) of the Labor and Employment Law Program provides criminal records and employment law training to job seekers who have been involved in the criminal legal system, assists employers in rethinking their approach to hiring, engages in research to study reentry practices, and influences policy makers and legislators on criminal justice reform.

Three Research Findings

Cornell Criminal Records Panel Study's (CCRPS) initial analysis revealed three key findings:

  1. Greater risk of criminal record inaccuracy for black and brown people.

    During the educational training for CPRA participants, we checked for two types of record inaccuracies: duplicate and dismissed entries. Duplicate entries are those that repeat another listing on the record. Dismissed entries are those in which charges were dropped, dismissed, or absolved as part of a plea bargain. These should not appear on the record.

    Overall, about 30% of CPRA participants had at least one inaccurate entry on their criminal records.
    Percent of CPRA-Trained Participants with Inaccuracies on Their Criminal Records (Cornell Criminal Records Panel Survey, Wave 2)

    As shown in the figure below, African-American or Black participants and Hispanic or Latino participants are more likely to have inaccuracies on their criminal records, compared to White participants. However, we find only modest differences in record inaccuracy across early participants’ levels of education.
    Percent of CPRA-Trained Participants with Inaccuracies on Their Criminal Records
    Percentage of CPRA-Trained Participants with Inaccuracies on Their Criminal Records

  2. Criminal record training may lead to job seeking and record correction.

    Educating individuals about their criminal record and their rights may help to increase their ability to seek new job opportunities. We find that about 33% of participants who received the CPRA training prior to the Wave 2 survey reported that they had recently applied for a new job or promotion. And, over half of those who received the training said that they are likely to apply for a job or promotion in the next six weeks.

    Those who received the training were also more likely to take action toward getting their record corrected, expunged, or sealed. This may be an important first step toward opening up new employment opportunities.
  3. Criminal records still pose substantial barriers for employment.

    Despite the gains observed for some people who completed the CPRA training, having a criminal record continues to restrict individuals’ opportunities to pursue jobs or promotions. From our Wave 2 survey:
    • 33% of participants said that they decided not to apply for a job because they expected that the employer would do a background check
    • Of those who did apply, 32% said that they had not been hired for a job because of a background check
    • And, nearly 60% of participants said that they are not very optimistic about their job prospect