Stanford Law Review Online
Stan. L. Rev. Online
This Essay argues that racial reckoning in policing should include a racial reckoning in the use of criminal records. Arrests alone—regardless of whether they result in convictions—create criminal records. Yet because the literature on criminal records most often focuses on prisoner reentry and on the consequences of criminal conviction, it is easy to overlook the connections between policing decisions and collateral consequences. This Essay employs the sociological framework of marking to show how criminal records entrench racial inequality stemming from policing. The marking framework recognizes that the government creates a negative credential every time it creates a record of arrest as well as conviction. Such records, in turn, trigger cascading consequences for employment, housing, immigration, and a host of other areas. The credentialing process matters because it enables and conceals race-based discrimination, and because a focus on the formal sentence often renders this discrimination invisible. This Essay considers how adopting a credentialing framework offers a way to surface, and ultimately to address, how race-based policing leaves lasting marks on over-policed communities.