Navigating Barriers to Opportunity

Higher education is the starting point for personal and professional success after involvement in the criminal legal system. It is nearly impossible to transform one’s life after incarceration without access to an education. But while many New York colleges and universities have removed criminal record questions from applications, conviction history is still commonly used in decisions on housing, campus-based activities and services, and career opportunities. These policies—which create unnecessary barriers to achieving a degree, gaining practical work experience, and accessing student housing—have lasting consequences for individuals, institutions, and communities, exacerbating the economic disenfranchisement that follows contact with the system.

The Institute is at the beginning of a multi-year plan to address criminal records barriers on campus through two main objectives:

  1. Increasing the capacity of students with past criminal legal system involvement to navigate background checks and barriers to education and economic opportunity.
  2. Training campuses to minimize barriers for students and appropriately inform and prepare them when a criminal record poses future employment barriers.

Our goal is to increase opportunities for students with conviction histories to translate their higher education experiences into fulfilling careers and economic mobility.