How States Can Reduce Structural Barriers to School and Work for People with Juvenile Records

There is an assumption that juvenile records do not have the same impact on employment or educational attainment as adult criminal convictions—that they are automatically sealed or expunged. But the collateral consequences of involvement with the juvenile justice system can be significant and long-lasting.

These restrictions also disproportionately affect people of color due to persistent racial and ethnic disparities in rates of juvenile justice involvement. And given the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on economic opportunities for young adults, it is crucial that state policies don’t unnecessarily prevent people with juvenile records from taking part in an inclusive economic recovery.

A first-of-its-kind analysis from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, Reducing Structural Barriers to School and Work for People with Juvenile Records, examines education- and employment-related barriers in 12 states that affect people following their involvement with the juvenile justice system.

People with a juvenile record can face legal barriers—imposed through state statute or employers and postsecondary institutions—that prevent them from continuing their education, earning credentials, and obtaining meaningful employment. And these consequences even apply to people who committed a minor offense, such as trespassing, or a status offense—acts that are illegal only when committed by juveniles—such as truancy or breaking curfew.

While statutes in the studied states acknowledge the difference between juvenile adjudications and adult criminal convictions, the CSG Justice Center found that state policies don’t effectively distinguish between the two and are often undermined by vague language, explicit exceptions, and a lack of clear criteria. This is particularly evident in consideration of “good moral character” or “fitness” requirements for a particular job or license that often lack guidance for how decisions will be made, and thus, could include a consideration of juvenile records.

Without a clear understanding of the impact of their juvenile record, an untold number of people simply choose not to continue their education or pursue certain employment opportunities. The good news is that state policymakers can help reduce these restrictions to school and work for people with juvenile records with policy solutions that are easy to implement and largely cost neutral.
Megan Quattlebaum
Director of the CSG Justice Center

A companion policy solutions toolkit from the CSG Justice Center provides sample legislative language to help states build on robust national support for collateral consequences reform and second chances for people with juvenile records.

The toolkit highlights five key areas where improvements to state policy can have the greatest impact on opportunities for people with juvenile records. Some of these improvements include making juvenile records presumptively confidential, clearing records automatically without cost for most youth, and advising youth of the possible education and employment barriers that could result from a conviction.

Policymakers can easily tailor the solutions for their respective states and learn from best practice examples in the toolkit.


About the Authors

Image for:
Former Senior Policy Analyst, Corrections and Reentry
Jacob Agus-Kleinman worked with the juvenile justice team to provide technical assistance to states, counties, and nonprofit organizations to improve outcomes for youth in both criminal and juvenile justice systems. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, he worked with
Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project, supporting states in the adoption of adult and juvenile sentencing and corrections reforms. Earlier in his career, he worked with Lawyers Without Borders, the Washtenaw County Public Defender’s Office, and as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Arab-American Family Support Center. Jacob received a BGS with a concentration in urban studies from the University of Michigan and is a Justice Policy Network Fellow.
Read More
  • Image for:
    Public Affairs Manager, Communications and External Affairs
    Sheridan Watson develops media relations, public affairs, and digital strategies to advance organization-wide initiatives. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, she served for more than 10 years as a spokeswoman and communications advisor for three members of Congress. Previously,
    she managed a portfolio of policy issues for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and served in communications roles at the Archdiocese of Washington and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Sheridan earned her ABJ in public relations from the University of Georgia and her MA in legislative affairs from The George Washington University.
    Read More
  • You might also be interested in