SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Eternal Criminal Record

Harvard Univ. Feb. 2015. 416p. notes. index. ISBN 9780674368262. $39.95. LAW
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OrangeReviewStarThe plight of convicted criminals usually does not elicit much sympathy. Many people will recite the old adage, "If you do the crime, then you do the time." The problem is, when does "doing the time" end? Upon prison release? Completion of probation? Or, as Jacobs (Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts; director, Ctr. for Research in Crime and Justice, New York Univ. Sch. of Law) asserts in this academic work, does the criminal pay throughout the rest of their life? A criminal record is created for every arrest, regardless of whether the arrestee was released or convicted, explains Jacobs; furthermore, he says, the police retain fingerprints, DNA profiles, and arrest information on people who were not convicted of the crime for which they were arrested. Since the U.S. government treats criminal records as "public" (European countries consider these records to be a personal, and not public, matter), virtually anyone can pay to get a copy of someone's record. These documents may be used to discriminate in cases involving housing, employment, immigration, college admissions, voting, jury duty, and even social welfare benefits. Even more troubling is that the records may not show the outcome of the arrest. Jacobs is not advocating for the removal of all criminal records; however, he is suggesting that the policies need to be improved.
VERDICT This excellent and in-depth look at the process of creating a criminal record and the dissemination of such information is best suited for academic libraries and libraries specializing in legal issues. For a general look at criminal law procedures, consider Paul Bergman and Sara J. Berman's The Criminal Law Handbook.

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