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Invisible Punishments in Higher Education Open Access

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Inquiring about a person’s criminal history on applications for institutions of higher education is a practice that has been around since 2006. No official justification exists, but these policies were initially designed to address concerns about safety on college campuses, and to prevent potentially dangerous applicants from possibly committing more crimes. However, these criminal background questions (CBQs) appear to have no effect on college campus safety measures, and these practices may actually further exacerbate criminal justice objectives like offender reintegration and recidivism rate reductions. Nevertheless, such practices remain commonplace in higher education applications. This study employs a critical discourse analysis of newspaper articles written between 2007 and 2018, examining the use of CBQs on college and university applications to further understand the underlying belief systems that legitimize and support such practices. Findings will illustrate the major themes behind the arguments for and against this practice. This study analyzes the underlying strategies and ideologies behind these arguments in order to uncover why an ineffective practice is defended without expert and outcome-based justification.

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