|Both the state and federal governments should enact legislation that protects public safety by making sure that people with past criminal records are able to re-integrate successfully. The best way to achieve this goal is to adhere to the following four principles:
1. Maximizing the chance that people with criminal records can successfully assume the responsibilities of independent, law-abiding citizens is a critical component of guaranteeing and reinforcing the community’s legitimate interest in public safety.
2. An arrest alone should never bar access to rights, necessities, and public benefits. Doing so denies the presumption of innocence – the core value of our legal system – to millions of Americans. Employers, housing authorities, and other decision-makers should not be permitted to consider arrest records.
3. A conviction should never bar access to a citizen’s right to vote or to basic necessities such as food, clothing, housing, and education.
4. Eligibility for employment, housing, adoptive and foster parenting, or a driver’s license should be based on the community’s legitimate interest in public safety and the particulars of an individual’s history and circumstances. Blanket bans of entire categories of people, such as everyone convicted of a felony, are neither wise nor fair; they do not take into account such important factors as the nature or circumstances of the conviction and what the person has done since the commission of the offense, including receiving an education, acquiring skills, completing community service, maintaining an employment history, or earning awards or other types of recognition.