Lawyer: 68 Million Americans Have Criminal Records – More Than Population of France

Melanie Arter | July 15, 2014 | 10:32am EDT
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(AP Photo)

( – A trial lawyer who testified last month before the House Committee on the Judiciary Over-Criminalization Task Force said the U.S. is “in danger of becoming a nation of criminals,” estimating that over 68 million Americans have criminal records – more than the population of France.

Rick Jones, executive director of Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, testified on June 26 on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, that “68 million people living with convictions – more than the entire population of France. We are in danger of becoming a nation of criminals, because we are policing from a place of fear.”


In written testimony, Jones estimated that “some 65 million people have a criminal record, citing a report from the National Employment Law Project, titled, “65 Million Need Not Apply: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment” – a product of NELP’s Second Chance Labor Project, “which promotes the employment rights of people with criminal records and fairer and more accurate criminal background checks for employment.”

The report’s findings were based on information from the 2008 “Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems” by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Strategic Plan 2005-2008, under the heading “Criminal History Records,” 68 million people had criminal records at the close of 2003. “At the close of 2003, States and the FBI maintained criminal history records on approximately 68 million individuals. Of these, over 50 million records were available for interstate background checks.”

“Since the initiation of the BJS National Criminal History Record Improvement Program (NCHIP) in 1995, the number of criminal records has increased 35%, and the number of records which are now shareable among the States increased 97%,” BJS said.

According to the latest World Bank data, France has a population of 66 million as of 2013.

“68 million people in this country are living with a criminal record. That’s one in every four adults – 20 million people with felony convictions, 14 million new arrests every year, 2.2 million people residing in jail or prison. That’s more than anywhere else in the world,” Jones told the task force.

He proposed that the U.S. “move from penalty, prosecution and endless punishment to forgiveness, redemption and restoration,” specifically calling for a “national restoration of rights day.”

A once-a-year national restoration of rights day would consist of: “educational programs for employers, skills training workshops for the affected community, jobs fairs, certificate of relief programs at no-cost and … no-cost opportunities to clean up your rap sheet.”

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