Some of us enter college unsure of what direction we want to go with our lives, believing that regardless of our studies, a degree is a key component to career and financial success. Others enter knowing exactly what they want to do, while the rest go to college because they did not know what else to do after high school.
The bleak job market with increasing unemployment rates has left many college graduates wondering whether the financial debt they committed to for an education is worth it. While nationwide jobs have depleted, recent studies show that crime rates have escalated. As a result, we are posed with the question of whether or not our system has set many of us up to fail.
According to The New York Times, “An article just published in the journal Pediatrics shows how the arrest rate has grown — by age 23, 30 percent of Americans have been arrested, compared with 22 percent in 1967. The increase reflects in part the considerable growth in arrests for drug offenses and domestic violence.”
We are currently living in a time where money is hard-earned. Colleges are harder to get in to, jobs are more difficult to find, debt is more difficult to get out of and law enforcement is getting stricter. Students filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid will notice that one of the questions is whether or not the individual has been convicted of any drug-related crimes, such as possessing or selling, while receiving financial aid. By answering “yes,” a student may risk their financial aid, which could ultimately affect their ability to attend school. It seems that the system is merely looking for individuals to cut their own cord.
According to The New York Times, “The ubiquity of criminal-background checks and the efficiency of information technology in maintaining those records and making them widely available, have meant that millions of Americans — even those who served probation or parole but were never incarcerated — continue to pay a price long after the crime.”
Jobs are already difficult to obtain, but a criminal record, even for a crime committed years prior, can affect an individual’s life for years to come. This can affect individuals’ job opportunities, income and their ability to support a family. Not hiring an individual on the grounds of a minor offense may demonstrate a lack of trust in our probation and correction policies.
Though not having a degree makes you a more likely candidate to be "let go" when companies downsize, The New York Times reported, “Many [graduates] have taken jobs that do not make use of their skills; about only half of recent college graduates said that their first job required a college degree.”
It is important to look at both the depleting job market in relation to positions available to graduates as well as the growing incarceration rates, because each demonstrates that our systems structure is failing its people.
It is human nature to fail. We fear and judge failure, yet are quick to fail, and slow to forgive. In a job market where success and individualism is key, yet almost not enough anymore, we cannot continue to penalize individuals for the minor mistakes and misdemeanors they have made in the past. Obviously, there are absolutely many exceptions to this, as this is definitely not a black or white topic.
After a certain amount of time, minor offenses should be given anonymity. Without it, people are not given the chance to learn from their mistake, though it is often our mistakes that make us not only more relatable, but also stronger and wiser individuals.