That is why I enjoyed reading Neil Steinberg’s recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times, which takes up the defense of a University of Illinois instructor who previously served time in federal prison. The instructor had been part of a group that had committed several felonies, including a bank robbery in which a person was killed. The article goes on to examine his life after the events of that case, and argues that his rehabilitation should carry more weight than his mistakes.
The lesson here is that even smart, creative people make mistakes. While it is great that this instructor was still able to succeed, there are many for whom the burden of a criminal record is a life sentence. Right now, there are young folks with world-class potential to become professors, doctors, scientists, etc. and are picking up criminal records. Many of them will face so many roadblocks from their conviction that they never realize this potential. You can extend this reasoning further and find that there are many hard-working, rehabilitated people that are unemployed or underemployed because of background checks finding a mistake they made long ago. Most might not even realize that they have options to clear their criminal records. When as a society we allow for great reservoirs of talent to go untapped, we all lose.