Millions Have Applied to Work for the 2010 Census and Been Subjected to Census’ Criminal History Background Check
- Roughly four million people are have applied or are applying for temporary positions for the 2010 census.
- Each applicant takes a written test and completes an application, which includes a question as to whether the individual has been convicted of a crime within the past 10 years.
- Census then conducts a background check on all applicants, which searches for all arrests, regardless of whether a conviction resulted, and has no time limitation.
By Using the FBI Database, Census’ Background Check Screens Out Applicants Who Have Never Been Convicted or Prosecuted for a Crime
- Census uses the FBI database to conduct background checks on all applicants. The database searches for all arrests, regardless of whether a conviction resulted and has no time limitation.
- The size of the FBI database is enormous. Over 70 million people in the United States have a criminal record. Virtually all of these arrests remain in the FBI database forever.
- Nearly a quarter of the U.S. adult population has a criminal record, yet over 35% of all arrests nation-wide never lead to prosecution or conviction.
- The FBI database is incomplete. It lacks final disposition information for about half of all of its arrest records. For millions of people, their entire criminal history consists of having been arrested and fingerprinted, and then released quickly by the police.
The 30-day letter Creates Insurmountable Hurdles
- Census sends each applicant whose name has a match in the FBI database a letter asking them to provide “official court records” of “any and all” arrests and convictions.
- The 30-day letter presents a hurdle that some applicants cannot overcome. Many of the official documents that Census requires do not exist because they have been expunged, sealed, or destroyed.
- Some records are not accessible to the public. Well over 10% of criminal records nation-wide are in “Closed Record States,” where criminal records are unavailable to Census applicants, due to strict limitations on production.
- In some states where records are not completely closed, disposition information will not be disclosed even upon request by the subject of the record.
- The difficulty, time, and expense of obtaining official documentation within 30 days deter many applicants from attempting to comply. Many do not know how to obtain official documentation and procedures vary widely from state to state and locality to locality.
- Many do not know whether they have actually been “arrested” because there is no universal definition of when a person is arrested.
- The term “official court records” used in the 30-day letter is confusing. There is a wide spectrum of possibilities, from mere disposition statements to full court transcripts. Some states provide copies but not originals; others provide only uncertified reports.
Discrimination in the U.S. Criminal Justice System
- Racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system are severe. African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are far more likely to have arrest records and convictions than whites.
- African Americans make up 12.3% of the population but account for approximately 28.3% of arrests and an even greater percentage of felony convictions nation-wide.
- Latinos and Native Americans are arrested and incarcerated at rates far greater than whites. Latinos are incarcerated at a rate twice that of whites.
- The U.S. Department of Justice recognizes that using the FBI database in a “widespread” manner for “criminal screening,” without further refinement, “undermine[s] employment discrimination policies.”