How the online records of crime history impact individuals’ daily lives

Sarah Esther Lageson
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University

Key Findings

  • Individuals who have found their criminal histories online felt humiliated in their social circles and have worried about the lasting impact of their records.
  • Many interviewees felt a desire to hide their criminal histories from society for fear of being stigmatized.
  • Interviewees reported avoiding regular activities that might lead to uncovering their past records.


In the article, “Found Out and Opting Out: The Consequences of Online Criminal Records for Families,” Lageson studied how online records of contact with the criminal justice system impact individuals who are seeking to have their criminal histories expunged. Lageson interviewed participants who opted into the study through her fieldwork at expungement clinics, which were dedicated to helping petitioners clear their low-level, nonviolent charges and convictions. Lageson’s data showed that interviewees faced humiliation from their social networks and were worried about the long-term effects of the records as well as where this information could be uncovered (i.e. job application, parent volunteer forms, etc.). Lageson notes that to avoid being stigmatized, many interviewees avoided activities that might cause their criminal histories to be known.

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