This report summarizes findings from a mixed methods study of New Jersey criminal record policies and practices, identifies key issues in data quality and disclosure that might negatively affect workers, and examines the types of industries and workers that are most impacted by criminal records and background checking.
In this report, the author empirically assesses the state of criminal record systems in New Jersey (NJ), examines the impact of criminal records on employment, and provides recommendations on how NJ might ensure that many qualified workers who have some type of criminal record are not barred from employment. The author discusses several key factors that have impacted labor practices, including the growth of big data background checking industry, growth in the number of people with criminal records, issues with background check accuracy, and employment discrimination based on criminal records. Policy recommendations to address these factors include: making access to one’s own criminal record available at no cost to the individual to ensure accuracy; reclassifying pre-conviction records such as arrest logs and photos as confidential until there has been a criminal conviction; and regulating criminal record data and background check companies. The also author suggests, considering the nature of these issues and their potential resolutions, that NJ has an opportunity to expand its labor force by regulating criminal record information, educating employers, and ensuring workers have a pathway to expungement.