Despite three years of legislative efforts to seal juvenile arrest and conviction records in Washington state, Washington remains one in a minority of states that releases juvenile records to the public. It has until recently been one of only three that sell these records in bulk to credit bureaus, data brokers, landlords, employers, colleges and other enterprises which use or market background checks, reports Crosscut.com. The effects of this policy go far beyond unemployment. Colleges and scholarship-granting agencies routinely do background checks and disqualify applicants for criminal histories.
Jim Theofelis of the Mockingbird Society for homeless youth and former mental health director at King County Youth Detention, recalls a teen who’d received a college scholarship. The school checked, discovered she’d been charged in a family domestic dispute, and withdrew the scholarship. “Finding housing was worse than getting a job,” says Sue Steinman, whose son was haunted by his juvenile record. He managed to land “a couple part-time jobs he got through friends who knew he'd turned his life around, but getting housing was impossible,” she said. Despairing of ever finding a house or a steady job in his home state, Steinman's son left for Hawai'i, where “nobody cared” about his record. He got good work, but struggled with depression, and died at Christmastime.