College Admissions and Criminal Background Checks
Date:  08-21-2013

New paper details Maryland’s approach to admitting students with a criminal history
Traditionally the latter part of August and the early part of September are times of excitement as students of all ages begin a new year of education. Whether the student is a kindergartener experiencing his first day of school ever, or a graduate student pursuing her last year at university, obtaining an education is a stepping stone to success. And while most students are allowed to pursue higher education there is a growing segment of society that is blocked from achieving that goal.

Individuals with criminal backgrounds are often denied entrance into colleges and universities. Numerous studies show that removing barriers to higher education can help those with a criminal history become productive, tax-paying members of society. But as criminal back ground checks are being used by more and more colleges, those making admission decisions almost automatically reject someone who committed a crime in the past—no matter how long ago it was, or how minor the crime was. The prevailing logic is that if someone committed a crime, that person is a criminal. Branded for life, no matter how well person with a criminal history redeemed himself, the gates to colleges are too often slammed shut. College admission policies are not uniform. Some colleges are more lenient than others in admitting someone with a criminal record. It often depends on the type of crime, and how long a go the crime was committed. But there barriers to higher education exist, and prevent bright people to contributing to society.

In announcing a new report, The Fortune Society writes:

“Research consistently shows that higher education is a key resource in lowering recidivism rates and increasing life opportunities for previously incarcerated individuals. Yet, there has been a trend for colleges to inquire about criminal background during the admissions process. A new paper, Systemic Barriers to Higher Education: How Colleges Respond to Applicants with Criminal Records in Maryland, by Natalie J. Sokoloff,? John Jay College of Criminal Justice—City University of New York, and Anika Fontaine, Duke University provides important insight to how Maryland colleges react to applicants with criminal backgrounds. Sokoloff and Fontaine also set the context for a number of policy and practice recommendations.”

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