“The Juvenile Record Myth”
A new article in the Georgetown Law Journal exposes the fallacy that delinquency adjudications don’t follow juveniles into adulthood, and documents the alarming extent to which records of juvenile delinquency adjudications have become almost as accessible to the public as records of adult convictions. In The Juvenile Record Myth, University of Tennessee Law Professor Joy Radice argues that state confidentiality and sealing provisions often provide far less protection than is commonly believed, and that juveniles frequently face continuing legal restrictions and stigma. Almost all states permit some degree of public access, and some even publish juvenile records online. Using recent literature on juvenile brain development and the recidivism research of criminologists, Radice presents new arguments for why delinquency records should not follow a juvenile into adulthood—and why the state’s obligation to help rehabilitate juveniles (an obligation typically recognized in a state’s juvenile code) should extend to restricting access to juvenile records. The abstract of Professor Radice’s article is reprinted at the end of this post.
The state-by-state profiles from the Restoration of Rights Project analyze each state’s laws on access to records of juvenile adjudications. These laws are summarized in the RRP’s 50-state-chart on expungement and sealing.
The Juvenile Record Myth
The proliferation of adult criminal records and their harmful impact on people with convictions has received growing attention from scholars, the media, and legislators from both sides of the political aisle. Much less attention has been given to the far-reaching impact of juvenile delinquency records, partly because many people believe that juvenile records are not public, especially after a juvenile turns eighteen. That common notion is a myth. This Article addresses that myth and adds to both the juvenile justice and collateral consequences literature in four ways. First, The Juvenile Record Myth illuminates the variety of ways states treat juvenile records—revealing that state confidentiality, sealing, and expungement provisions often provide far less protection than those terms suggest. Although juvenile delinquency records are not as publicly accessible as adult records, their impact is felt well beyond a juvenile’s eighteenth birthday. No state completely seals juvenile delinquency records from public view or expunges them. Some states even publish juvenile records online, and almost all permit some degree of public access. Second, this Article provides the first comprehensive analysis of the crucial role of nondisclosure provisions in eliminating the stigma of a juvenile record. Now that colleges, employers, state licensing agencies, and even landlords are increasingly asking about juvenile delinquency charges and adjudications, the confidentiality, sealing, and expungement protections that do exist will be significantly undermined unless states allow juveniles with records not to disclose them. Third, using recent literature on juvenile brain development and the recidivism research of criminologists, The Juvenile Record Myth presents new arguments for why juvenile delinquency records should not follow a juvenile into adulthood—and why the state’s obligation to help rehabilitate juveniles (an obligation typically recognized in a state’s juvenile code) should extend to restricting access to juvenile records. Finally, it argues for a comprehensive and uniform approach to removing the stigma of a juvenile record through a combination of robust confidentiality, expungement, sealing, and nondisclosure statutes to facilitate a juvenile’s reintegration.
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