The records of juvenile offenders are not nearly so confidential as they should be, and the records are also not easily sealed or expunged, says a Juvenile Law Center study reported by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. It shows that many states fail to protect the records to begin with. Other states fail to seal or expunge the records later. No states got the group’s highest rating of five stars. New Mexico scored highest in protecting the records and reputations of youthful offenders; Idaho scored lowest.
The consequences are serious, said the center, which conducted the study with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Youthful offenders are being denied college admission, military service and jobs because of the too-free sharing of information about crimes they committed as children or teenagers. In reality, the records are accessible to a wide range of people, institutions and even companies that buy such information to sell to other companies for job screening. Retaining the records for years after a young person has moved beyond the incident and then allowing others access to the records creates employment, educational and other social barriers that a young person may never be able to overcome.