More and more employers are using criminal background checks during the hiring process. In Pennsylvania and other states, the criminal records of juveniles often show up in those reviews.
A new report by the Juvenile Law Center and Community Legal Services questions whether states should limit access to such records.
Jamie Gullen, an attorney at Community Legal Services who co-wrote the paper, said Pennsylvania ranks in the bottom quarter of states when it comes to restricting the use of the criminal records of children.
“It allows a lot of juvenile records information to be available to the public and to employers,” she said. “It also does not have any sort of automatic expungement process, and it doesn’t notify young people about their rights to an expungement.”
Delaware ranks along with Pennsylvania in the bottom quarter of states, while New Jersey is in the middle, Gullen said.
Gullen said access to juvenile records should be limited because the court system treats young people differently than adults. For instance, she said, young people don’t always have the right to a jury trial. Plus, she said, young offenders differ from adults psychologically.
“They make decisions sometimes that are not the right choices, but they are young and they can learn from their mistakes and have the capacity to grow and change,” said Gullen.
Employer groups, such as the National Retail Federation, have traditionally defended using criminal background checks as a way to protect their customers and workers.
The National Retail Federation did not respond to a request for comment.