What you don’t know…can hurt you
The other day, I had the pleasure of talking to a young person who had recently graduated from high school. She talked about her plans to start college in the fall and her aspirations to become a nurse. The conversation then veered towards some trouble that her friend had gotten into and the challenges that prevented him from finishing high school. Her familiarity with the juvenile justice system struck me until she revealed that she had been in the system at a younger age for a minor offense. When I asked her whether she had begun the process of sealing her juvenile record, her blank stare conveyed everything I needed to know. “My mom told me I didn’t have a record,” she said.
There is a misconception among young people and their families that arrests, minor offenses, and even charges that get dropped do not make it onto a juvenile record. There is another misconception that juvenile records automatically become sealed once the young person turns 18. And there is a further misconception that what you do as a child will not impact your opportunities as an adult. If left alone, a juvenile record can follow a person until their 38th birthday or even longer. A juvenile record can impact a young person’s ability to get a job, qualify for an academic scholarship, rent an apartment, apply for a driver license, and other things that can help a young person successfully transition into adulthood.
While not all juvenile records can be sealed, the vast majority of them can be with relative ease. It’s tough enough getting a job in this economic climate without the added burden of having a juvenile record. At Books Not Bars, we recently hosted a presentation on sealing juvenile records and provided families with resources and applications to begin the process. If you are interested in learning more about how to seal a juvenile record, please contact Jennifer Kim, the Books Not Bars Policy Advocate.
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