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Keywords:

  • redemption;
  • criminal background checks;
  • criminal-history records;
  • employment

Criminal background checks have now become ubiquitous because of advances in information technology and growing concerns about employer liability. Also, a large number of individual criminal records have accumulated and have been computerized in state repositories and commercial databases. As a result, many ex-offenders seeking employment could be haunted by a stale record. Recidivism probability declines with time “clean,” so some point in time is reached when a person with a criminal record, who remained free of further contact with the criminal justice system, is of no greater risk than a counterpart of the same age—an indication of redemption from the mark of crime. Very little information exists on this measure of time until redemption and on how its value varies with the crime type and the offender's age at the time of the earlier event. Using data from a state criminal-history repository, we estimate the declining hazard of rearrest with time clean. We first estimate a point of redemption as the time when the hazard intersects the age–crime curve, which represents the arrest risk for the general population of the same age. We also estimate another similar redemption point when the declining hazard comes “sufficiently close” to the hazard of those who have never been arrested. We estimate both measures of redemption as a function of the age and the crime type of the earlier arrest. These findings aid in the development of guidelines for the users of background checking and in developing regulations to enhance employment opportunities for ex-offenders.