The Washington Post reports that the White House has directed the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to drop its proposal to expand the types of criminal records that must be disclosed by applicants seeking federal jobs and contracting work. OPM’s proposal, which we described in March, would have required applicants for federal jobs and contracting work to disclose participation in pretrial diversion programs in the last 7 years.
In March, we launched our non-conviction records project, a major study of the public availability and use of non-conviction records – including arrests that are never charged, charges that are dismissed, deferred and diversionary dispositions, and acquittals. The appearance of these records in background checks can lead to significant discrimination against people who have never been convicted of a crime, and result unfairly in barriers to employment, housing, education, and many other opportunities. Our letter opposing the OPM proposal cited our research on diversions and pointed out that while “state lawmakers, judges, and prosecutors favor diversionary dispositions in appropriate cases to help people avoid the restrictions and stigma of a conviction, OPM’s proposal disfavors them by treating them like convictions.”
We are pleased to see the administration quash this ill-advised proposal, in the face of opposition from advocates on the left and right, lawmakers from both parties, and prosecutors and public defenders. At a time of growing consensus in Congress and the states about the need to prioritize rehabilitation and reintegration for individuals with a criminal record, the federal government should be moving to reduce the collateral consequences of diversion (as Indiana and Wisconsin did in 2018 when they prohibited licensing boards from considering arrests not resulting in conviction, or California and Nevada did in 2017 when they prohibited employers from considering an applicant’s successful completion of diversion).
While every state legislature has in some way addressed the problem of reintegration since 2012, Congress has not enacted any laws dealing with the problems presented by collateral consequences for more than a decade. Now is the time for federal action in support of reintegration, as the withdrawal of the OPM proposal evidently recognizes.