Doug Smith spent five years and eight months in a Huntsville, Texas, prison for a felony he committed while suffering from substance use disorder and mental illness. He was released in 2014, rehabilitated but still bound.
“I was immediately turned down for 90% of the jobs I applied for because of my record,” Smith recalled in an interview, remembering the months he spent struggling to find a place to work and live during his re-entry process.
“The only apartments that would accept me were places that would except anyone, where there was lots of drug use and crime,” he said.
About one in three U.S. adults, some 70 million people, have a criminal record, including those who were arrested but not convicted. These records have long-lasting consequences that can hinder a person’s access to employment, housing or a professional license.
As of April, at least 11 states have automatic record expungement laws, but eligibility depends on the number of convictions and the type of crime, according to the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, a nonprofit repository of state and federal restoration laws and policies.
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