Rights group wants a reform of criminal records law

A human rights organization wants lawmakers to wipe clean police records after sentence is served.

The organization is the Fundación para la Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos. Mario Herrán García of the organization presented a petition signed by 3,000 persons Wednesday.

The recipient was Oscar Alfaro Zamora, president of the legislature’s Comisión de Derecho Humanos.

The petition contends that making public an arrest or conviction is a human rights violation.

Costa Rican employers almost always ask job applicants to provide what is known as an hoja de delincuencia, basically a criminal record issued by the judiciary. The sheets are easy to get and even can be ordered online. They contain any conviction over the last 10 years.

The foundation noted that someone may have been convicted of a crime at a younger age and turned life around to gain an education. But the police record will show what the foundation termed an error. The reporting of this youthful error would violate what the foundation called the human right to a job.

The act reported on the record sheet would not be a juvenile encounter with law enforcement because those records continue to be sealed. But what the foundation said it wanted via the petition is a change in the law that says the case is erased after that sentence is served or whatever sanction ordered by a judge is fulfilled.

Under Costa Rican law first-time offenders usually are set free if they are convicted and sentenced to a term of three years or under. Presumably this conditional discharge would stay on the record until the three years have past, according to the proposal.

Sometimes individual are sentenced to abstain from seeking a public job for five years.

The foundation proposal would have to be coupled with some kind of language prohibiting private companies from releasing information about an arrest for the idea to be effective. Many employers have credit checks run on job finalists, and such reports would show convictions of whatever age.

Private credit reporting firms accumulate all this information. Even news files contain reports of arrests and convictions, and they usually are open to an Internet search.

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