By Steve Elliott
A criminal record usually limits opportunities. But now there's a $1,000 law school scholarship available where applicants must prove they've already been in trouble with the law.
The Appelman Law Firm, LLC, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says the idea is designed to reward those who've made better choices after a conviction -- "those who have managed to turn their lives around and intend to pursue a career in criminal defense."
"There's a real need for passionate attorneys in criminal defense," said Avery Appelman, the firm's founder. "Nothing instills a great passion for justice quite like having suffered through the process yourself."
That's where the Appelman Law Firm Criminal Defense Scholarship comes in, and Appelman isn't alone in thinking a criminal record shouldn't be a barrier to making a better life.
"There are just too many ways to run afoul of the law for anyoen to think they are immune," Appelman said. "A mistake can easily lead to an arrest or jail."
Attempts to determine just how many criminal statutes exist have failed, because there are so many. An estimate from the government in the 1980s put it at about 3,000 in the federal system alone. Shortly afterward, another study from the American Bar Association said that was too low a figure, but couldn't come up with a better number.
Adding in state crimes only makes the situation worse. For many, avoiding a criminal record has become more a matter of luck than of being a good citizen.