CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, January 23, 2023

Lageson & Stewart on Criminal Records

Sarah Lageson and Robert Stewart (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - School of Criminal Justice and University of Maryland) have posted The Problem With Criminal Records on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Criminal records are routinely used by employers and other institutional decision-makers, who rely on their presumed fidelity, to evaluate applicants. We analyze criminal records for a sample of 101 people, comparing official state reports, two sources of private sector background checks (one regulated and one unregulated), and qualitative interviews. Based on our analysis, private sector background checks are laden with false positive and false negative errors: 60% and 50% of participants had at least one false positive error on their regulated and unregulated background checks, and nearly all (90% and 92% of participants, respectively) had at least one false negative error. We define specific problems with private sector criminal records: mismatched data that create false negatives, missing case dispositions that create incomplete and misleading criminal records, and incorrect data that create false positives. The prevalence of error in private sector background checks limits access to social opportunities ranging from employment, education, and housing.

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