Myths and Facts

Myth: Once a criminal, always a criminal.

Fact: People with felony conviction histories cannot prove themselves unless someone gives them a second chance.

Some people assume that a person who has been convicted of a crime has a basic character flaw that is not found in the “normal” population. In the vast majority of cases, people coming out of prison or jail are “normal” people who have made a mistake and are ready to put it behind them.

 

Myth: People with felony convictions are permanently barred from voting.

Fact: Oregonians with past felony convictions may vote as soon as they are released from jail or prison, even if they’re still on parole or probation.

In some states, those with past felony convictions may not vote. In Oregon, however, the law allows people to reconnect with their communities by restoring their voting rights. You may register to vote like anyone else. To register to vote or update your current registration:

  1. Complete the Voter Registration Form. The form is in a fillable .pdf format. Open the form using the free Adobe Acrobat© Reader and complete it online by tabbing through the fields and typing in the requested information.
  2. Print the completed form and sign it. If you do not wish to complete the voter registration form online, you may print the form and complete it using black ink.
  3. Mail the form to your county elections office or drop it off in person.
  4. You can also register online, using Oregon's fast and easy online voter registration system at https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar/vr/register.do?lang=eng&source=SOS.

 

Myth: People with felony records are unemployable.

Fact: Formerly incarcerated people represent a cross section of the workforce and many have valuable, in-demand skills and qualifications.

Most people in prison were employed at the time they were arrested, and most have above-average work records. Statistics for male labor-force participation show that most males convicted of crimes have a favorable prior work record. Once released and employed, they exhibit a normal degree of turnover compared with the working population as a whole. In fact, several case studies from companies that have made extensive use of formerly incarcerated people in their workforces reveal a lower-than-average turnover rate.

There is a general misperception that people who have felony conviction histories can perform only the most menial jobs; that they are only capable of doing manual or repetitive work; that they are uneducated and unreliable; that someone will always have to watch over them; that other employees won’t want to work with them; that they are untrustworthy; that there are legal restrictions which exclude formerly incarcerated people from working at most companies;  and that they will put other employees at risk. All of these stereotypes are based on fear and misinformation and are untrue for a majority of people with conviction histories!

Nearly one in three formerly incarcerated people have graduated from high school and/or college. In general, formerly incarcerated people are as reliable as other workers. Research shows that most employers who hire the formerly incarcerated have positive experiences. People who have been incarcerated have “paid the price” for their crime and most of them want to make a fresh start. Formerly incarcerated people do not require “extra” supervision on the job. There is no need for employees other than immediate supervisors to know of the employee’s past. You will be surprised how quickly a formerly incarcerated person will fit in, given the opportunity. And it is a common misunderstanding that certain professions and certifications bar people with criminal records. In fact, refusal is determined by type of offense not by the existence of an offense.

Over 90% of people who have been in prison will be released into the community; helping them get jobs significantly decreases the likelihood that they will commit other crimes. Most experts, academics, and practitioners, as well as people with criminal records themselves, believe that obtaining employment is absolutely crucial to successful re-integration of formerly incarcerated people and to the promotion of public safety through a reduction in crime.

 

Myth: People with felony convictions cannot receive federal financial educational assistance, such as Pell Grants or Stafford Loans, to go to college.

Fact: A person might not be able to receive federal student aid if he/she has been convicted of selling or possessing illegal drugs, if the drug offense for which they were convicted occurred while they were receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, and /or work study).

The question on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) regarding drug offenses asks about convictions for possessing or selling illegal drugs (not including alcohol and tobacco) if the offense occurred during a period of enrollment for which you were receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, and/or work-study). Convictions that have been removed from a person’s record do not count. Also, convictions that occurred before a person turned 18, unless tried as an adult, do not count. If a person has a past drug conviction, this does not automatically mean that they are ineligible for federal student aid. The FAFSA worksheet will help a person determine their eligibility.

TIP: A person should complete and submit a FAFSA even if they are not eligible for federal student aid, as they might be eligible for financial aid from other sources.

To determine whether a drug offense affects your eligibility, visit the Student Aid Eligibility Worksheet at the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA website.