Found Out and Opting Out: The Consequences of Online Criminal Records for Families

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45 Scopus citations


Online criminal histories document and publicize even minor brushes with the law and represent people who may not even be guilty of any crime. This has dramatically changed the relationship that millions of Americans have with the criminal justice system and may affect their social and private lives. Drawing on interviews and fieldwork with people attempting to expunge and legally seal their criminal records, I explore how online versions of these records impact family relationships. Many who appear on mug shot and criminal history websites are arrestees who are never formally charged or convicted of a crime. The indiscriminate posting of all types of justice contact on websites may impact those who, for the most part, desist from crime and are core contributors to their family and community. I find that many of those who are affected by the stigma of online records did not know that records existed until they “popped up” unexpectedly, and that this experience leads them to self-select out of family duties that contribute to child well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-141
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


  • Internet
  • criminal records
  • punishment


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