New Analysis Finds States Limit Employment, Education Opportunities for People with Juvenile Records

March 16, 2021

A new study released today by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, reveals that vague and inconsistent state policies limit education, credentialing, and employment opportunities for people with juvenile records and put them at greater risk of recidivism.

Reducing Structural Barriers to School and Work for People with Juvenile Records, a first-of-its-kind analysis from the CSG Justice Center, examines education- and employment-related barriers in 12 states that affect people following their involvement with the juvenile justice system. States studied include California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, and Washington.

“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,” said Megan Quattlebaum, Director of the CSG Justice Center. “As young adults and people without a college degree, particularly people of color, face continued employment challenges due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever that states examine these barriers to ensure an inclusive economic recovery.”

While statutes in the studied states acknowledge the difference between juvenile adjudications and adult criminal convictions, the CSG Justice Center found that these same state policies often fail to make clear how juvenile records may—or may not—be considered as criteria for education or employment opportunities. Overarching state statutes also can have explicit exceptions, barring people with certain juvenile records—sometimes even for minor offenses—from law enforcement appointments; occupational licenses; employment in select industries, such as health care or childcare; and postsecondary financial aid opportunities.

According to the study, most states have at least some record clearance mechanisms to minimize the impact of a juvenile record, but long wait periods, eligibility restrictions, and hundreds of dollars in fees along with other administrative burdens limit their effectiveness. Despite “ban-the-box” efforts, many employers in the 12 studied states continue to require criminal background checks that often report on juvenile records. And post-secondary institutions often fail to distinguish between juvenile adjudications and criminal convictions or allow for any context related to the nature of offenses when asking about criminal history on applications.

“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,” said Quattlebaum. “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.”

A companion policy solutions toolkit 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.

For more information, visit https://csgjusticecenter.org/publications/juvenile-consequences/.

About the Author


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Sheridan Watson
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,
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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.
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