Word is getting around about pending reforms that would make federal support for small businesses more widely available to entrepreneurs with a criminal history. Notably, the U.S. Small Business Administration has recently taken steps to reduce or remove entirely criminal record-related restrictions in its loan and contracting programs. These are steps that CCRC has been urging ever since the SBA’s restrictive policies first came to public attention during the pandemic.
An article by Michael Friedrich published today by Arnold Ventures (AV) describes a number of reforms recently proposed or adopted by the SBA that will eliminate arbitrary program barriers based on criminal history that are unrelated to any established risk. These reforms should encourage more justice-affected business owners to seek SBA support for their entrepreneurial ventures in the form of federally guaranteed loans or federal contract set-asides for “socially and economically disadvantaged” businesses.
The AV article points out that the near-exclusion from these programs based on criminal history “frustrate[s] federal efforts to contribute to economic development in disadvantaged communities, often the same low-income communities of color that have suffered the most during the era of mass incarceration and tough-on-crime policies.”
NOTE: This post has been updated as of 4/2 to incorporate additional research.
Researchers at the RAND Corporation have proposed a radical new approach to measuring recidivism risk that raises questions about decades of received truth about the prevalence of reoffending after people leave prison. At least since the 1990s, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has measured risk of recidivism at the time of a person’s last interaction with the justice system, when the statistical cohort includes many who are frequent participants in the criminal system as well as those for whom it is a one-time affair. As a result, employers and others tend to interpret background checks as overstating the risk posed by someone who in fact may have been living in the community for years without criminal incident, and is unlikely to become criminally involved again.
In Providing Another Chance: Resetting Recidivism Risk in Criminal Background Checks, Shawn Bushway and his RAND colleagues argue that risk should instead be measured at the time a background check is conducted, after an individual has had an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to reintegrate lawfully as well as their propensity to reoffend. They label this the “reset principle,” and argue that this more individualized approach to risk assessment promises to improve the predictive value of criminal background checks. In fact, they propose that it will “strengthen the case that people with convictions can, and usually do, change their ways.”
Coupled with other studies showing that the risk of recidivism depends on a variety of factors (e.g., age at time of offense), this new RAND study suggests that general “time to redemption” research should not be relied upon to predict future behavior of specific individuals.
Editor’s note: This past year has seen a burgeoning of scholarship dealing with collateral consequences broadly defined, from lawyers, social scientists, and philosophers. CCRC’s good friend Alessandro Corda has selected fifteen notable articles published in 2018-19, with information, links, and abstracts. They are organized into five categories:
(1) Legal collateral consequences
(2) Collateral consequences and criminal procedure
(3) Sex offender registration laws
(4) Informal collateral consequences
(5) Criminal records, expungement, sealing, and other relief mechanisms
A complete and regularly updated collection of scholarship on issues relating to collateral consequences and criminal records can be found on our “Books & Articles” page. From time to time we will preview and comment on new articles, and Alessandro has promised to provide another round-up by the end of the year. We hope he will continue indefinitely in the role of CCRC’s official bibliographer. (A PDF copy of this scholarship round-up is here.)