As Many Americans Have Criminal Records as College Diplomas Reply

There are more Americans who have a criminal record than Americans who have a dog. Awesome.

By Matthew Friedman

Brennan Center

The number of Americans with a criminal history has risen sharply over the past three decades. Today, nearly one-third of the adult working age population has a criminal record. In fact, so many Americans have a criminal record that counting them all is nearly impossible.

According to a 2012 Department of Justice survey, state criminal history repositories contain more than 100 million records. These are popularly referred to as “rap sheets” or “criminal records” although most people who have them have never been convicted of a serious crime. These repositories chronicle nearly every arrest, regardless of whether or not it leads to an indictment or conviction. And while 100 million records do exist, this figure almost certainly overstates the true number of individuals who have been arrested at any point in their lives, since one person can have an arrest record in multiple states.

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