Safest Cities in Arizona, 2021

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Overall, Arizona is one of the safer states in the country, with property and violent crime rates below the national average, so you never have to be too worried while traveling through the Copper State. Yet, many of Arizona’s communities are even a great deal safer than the state average, as long as you are adequately protected from the sun.

Maricopa County’s Paradise Valley, by some accounts the wealthiest community in Arizona, is also its safest, earning a Safety Index score of 0.82. With extremely low rates of 0.41 violent crimes and 15.18 property crimes per 1,000 residents, Paradise Valley truly lives up to its name.

In terms of safety, #2 Oro Valley, a suburb of Tucson, is not far behind Paradise Valley, with even lower violent and property crimes than the prior entry in the ranking. Its Safety Index score is only lower due to a slightly lower ratio of 2.94 law enforcement officers per 1,000 residents compared to Paradise Valley’s 3.08.

Florence, one of the oldest towns in the state, ranks #3 on the list due to impressively low crime rates, including a property crime rate of just 4.8 per 1,000 that bests the previous two entries on the list.

Fourth is Marana, a fast-growing community also in the Tucson area notched a property crime rate higher than the top 3 at 26.24 incidents per 1,000, but is still a very safe city with a violent crime rate below 1 incident per 1,000 residents.

Closing out Arizona’s top five is the small city of Cottonwood, in Yavapai County. Cottonwood benefits from a large ratio of law enforcement employees to residents: 4.62 for every 1,000.

Safest Cities in Arizona, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
1Paradise Valley0.82
2Oro Valley0.8
6Bullhead City0.43
14San Luis0.22
16Prescott Valley0.2
17Apache Junction0.18
18Lake Havasu City0.14
19Camp Verde0.06
25El Mirage-0.13
29Show Low-0.22
33Sierra Vista-0.36


We used the most recent FBI crime statistics to create state rankings. There were initially 7,430 cities in the data set. After filtering out the cities with populations of less than 10,000, 2,929 cities remained. We then calculated violent crime rates and property crime rates by dividing the crime numbers by the population to get rates per 1,000. We also calculated the ratio of law enforcement workers to per 1,000. These were weighted with -50% for the violent crime rate, -25% for the property crime rate, and +25% for the law enforcement rate. The resulting metric gave us a the safety index score. The higher this number more safe the city is.

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Safest Cities in Alaska, 2021

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Due to our population parameter filtering out cities with a population under 10,000, just four communities in Alaska qualified for our ranking of the state’s safety cities. Let’s see how Alaska’s four largest cities compare in terms of overall safety.

With a safety index score of 0.15, Wasilla just edges out #2 Fairbanks, while doing much better than Alaska’s other two 10,000+ population cities. The Anchorage suburb recorded 5.35 violent crimes per 1,000 inhabitants along with 45.97 property crimes per 1K.

Second place goes to Fairbanks, which at 32,937 is over three times the size of #1 Wasilla, posted very similar crime statistics, with a slightly higher 6.224 violent crimes per 1K. However, it’s 1.34 law enforcement employees per 1000 residents is significantly lower than Wasilla’s, leading to a much lower safety index score.

Third in Alaska’s safest cities ranking is Juneau, which is about the same size as Fairbanks, yet is plagued by a 51% higher violent crime rate of 9.37 incidents per 1000 inhabitants.

With a population dwarfing other Alaskan cities, Anchorage is by far the largest in the state, as well as the least safe of those that qualify for our ranking. Anchorage ranks #4 due to a high violent crime rate of 12.03 per 1000K and a similarly high property crime rate of 54.15 per 1000K.

Safest Cities in Alaska, 2019

RankCitySafety Index


We used the most recent FBI crime statistics to create state rankings. There were initially 7,430 cities in the data set. After filtering out the cities with populations of less than 10,000, 2,929 cities remained. We then calculated violent crime rates and property crime rates by dividing the crime numbers by the population to get rates per 1,000. We also calculated the ratio of law enforcement workers to per 1,000. These were weighted with -50% for the violent crime rate, -25% for the property crime rate, and +25% for the law enforcement rate. The resulting metric gave us a the safety index score. The higher this number more safe the city is.

Did your district make the list? Share the good news!

Due to our population parameter filtering out cities with a population under 10,000, just four communities in Alaska qualified for our ranking of the state’s safety cities. Let’s see how Alaska’s four largest cities compare in terms of overall safety.   With a safety index score of 0.15, Wasilla just edges out #2 Fairbanks, while doing much better than Alaska’s other two 10,000+ population cities. The Anchorage suburb recorded 5.35 violent crimes per 1,000 inhabitants along with 45.97 property crimes per 1K.  #2 Fairbanks, which at 32,937 is over three times the size of #1 Wasilla, posted very similar crime statistics, with a slightly higher 6.224 violent crimes per 1K. However, it’s 1.34 law enforcement employees per 1000 residents is significantly lower than Wasilla’s, leading to a much lower safety index score.  Third in Alaska’s safest cities ranking is Juneau, which is about the same size as Fairbanks, yet is plagued by a 51% higher violent crime rate of 9.37 incidents per 1000 inhabitants.  With a population dwarfing other Alaskan cities, Anchorage is by far the largest in the state, as well as the least safe of those that qualify for our ranking. Anchorage ranks #4 due to a high violent crime rate of 12.03 per 1000K and a similarly high property crime rate of 54.15 per 1000K.

Safest Cities in Alabama, 2021

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On a whole, Alabama is not one of the safest states in the United States, yet many of its individual communities score very highly on our Safety Index due to low crime rates and well-staffed police forces. The state’s top five safest cities prove to excellent places to live peacefully and raise a family without fear of violent incident or home invasion, let’s take a look at them here.

Cullman, a city of nearly 16,000 and county seat of Cullman County, is Alabama’s safest city. The city scores a 0.72 on the Safety Index due to its low crime rates and excellent police force. 

Following at #2 is Vestavia Hills, a lush, fast growing suburb of large city Birmingham. The city of 34,781 logged a mere 24 violent crimes in 2017.

Third on the list is Hoover, located in the same north-central region of Alabama as the first two entries in the ranking. With a population topping 85,000, Hoover is unusually large city to log such impressive crime statistics, yet the regional shopping and economic hub posted a very low violent crime rate of less than one incident per 1K in 2017.

Ranking #4 is Foley, a small city of just over 18,000 in Baldwin County. Foley owes its safety in part to a high ratio of over 5 law enforcement officers for each 1,000 residents.

Rounding out Alabama’s top five safest cities is Albertsville, a small city of 21,588 with a violent crime rate of just 1.02 per 1,000 residents.

Safest Cities in Alabama, 2019

RankCitySafety Index
2Vestavia Hills0.69
9Pleasant Grove0.43
19Muscle Shoals-0.48
23Phenix City-0.67
29Alexander City-1.76


We used the most recent FBI crime statistics to create state rankings. There were initially 7,430 cities in the data set. After filtering out the cities with populations of less than 10,000, 2,929 cities remained. We then calculated violent crime rates and property crime rates by dividing the crime numbers by the population to get rates per 1,000. We also calculated the ratio of law enforcement workers to per 1,000. These were weighted with -50% for the violent crime rate, -25% for the property crime rate, and +25% for the law enforcement rate. The resulting metric gave us a the safety index score. The higher this number more safe the city is.

Did your district make the list? Share the good news!

A Parent’s Guide to Smartphone Security

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Keeping your child safe online is a modern problem that many parents face today. After all, technology is moving faster than many people can keep up with. If you have a child, then you are well aware of the new devices that are becoming integrated in a child’s life. It may begin with your child using your personal device to play games, watch videos, read books, and learn about new topics online. That routine can quickly turn into a situation where your kids may have their own tablets and, before you know it, are asking for their own Apple iPhones and/or Google Android devices. When stress and overwhelm sets in, remember one thing: this is not a unique challenge that only your family faces. It’s something that families around the world are grappling with, and unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of history or experience to draw from.

With any connected device, regardless of age or experience using the device, security is a top concern. There are hackers looking to steal information, criminals looking to connect with people online, and a growing concern about the availability of information and the types of information that people may be accessing. Since children are inexperienced online, learning more about their world, and developing their own understanding of themselves, these factors can pose an even greater risk.

So, how do you, as a parent, ensure that your child is safe and secure when using a smartphone? Other than banning your children from using mobile devices, there is no way to completely remove this risk. With the right education for both yourself and your children, however, smartphones can be powerful, positive tools for both learning and connectivity.

How many children are actually using smartphones?

The growth of the smartphone industry has been nothing short of amazing. More than 80% of American adults now have smartphones, which is more than double the rate from surveys conducted in 2011. Essentially, almost every household in the country has at least one Internet access enabled smartphone, and those numbers are only expected to continue growing as the remaining holdouts move from so-called dumb phone ownership to smartphones.

But how has this growth affected children? Smartphone ownership among children is lower than adults, but this rate is increasing rapidly year over year. Around age 9 or 10, many parents begin purchasing smartphones for their children. In fact, nearly half of kids between age 10 and 12 have a smartphone with their own service plan. This age makes sense as children become more independent around this age. They may begin walking home from school alone, spending some time alone while parents are out, and visiting friend’s homes. Most parents want to be connected to their children at all times, and the best way to accomplish this is with a mobile device.

As kids enter their teenage years, smartphone access spikes. In fact, up to 95% of teens have regular access to their own smartphone. This is a rate that actually outnumbers adult ownership in the United States. By the time kids are in their high school years, nearly every student will have their own smartphone, which means that smartphone security is something that should concern nearly every parent in America.

Why do your kids need smartphones?

A lot of parents take the stand that their child doesn’t need a smartphone. However, this point of view often changes as children get older and becoming more independent. The most common reason to give your kid a smartphone is to stay connected when they may not always be in a location where you can easily reach out to them, like at school or at a daycare. A smartphone is a simple and effective way to keep a point of contact as kids begin to do things on their own like go to the park, visit friends, join sports teams, or take on volunteer opportunities.  Location services alone can offer peace of mind that simply wasn’t available a decades ago.

It’s also important not to look past the usefulness of a smartphone when your child begins to increase their homework workload. Older kids can use smartphones to help them do research for papers, as an example. Plus, with many schools moving more towards online systems, a smartphone is a great way for kids to manage their class schedule, communicate with teachers, plan group projects with other students, and check their own grades or due dates on assignments.

Of course, there are some situations where you, as a parent, may not have complete say in the matter. For example, teens that work part-time jobs often have the means to purchase their own smartphone, without the help of a parent. Being proactive about smartphone security and online safety can help you and your family prepare for the inevitable day when a working teen has saved up enough money to buy a smartphone of their own. Plus, the smartphone can be very helpful for working teens as they manage work schedules, communicate with their employer, and organize transportation to and from work.

What are the concerns regarding children and smartphones?

Not all scenarios involving smartphone use and children are positive. Smartphones have become powerful communication tools that essentially open up the entire Internet to your child, which also means opening up opportunities for risky situations to arise. It’s important to take all necessary precautions to try and keep your kids safe.

One of the main concerns when it comes to children being online is the potential for interacting with online predators. The Internet has made it easy for people to communicate and that includes those who may have negative intentions. Adults can use social media apps like Facebook and Snapchat to connect with children and pressure them into sharing information, engage in inappropriate relationships and send explicit content, and participate in illegal activities.  Worst of all, many of these online encounters can become real life encounters if predators are able to advance the relationship in such a way. Startling numbers show that there may be as many as 500,000 predators online that target children, and more than half of younger children share personal information with strangers online.

Another growing epidemic in many countries around the world is cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can come from other children, people your child may know, and also complete strangers. There was a time that bullying was confined to the classroom or playground and children could escape bullies at the end of the day. With the growth of smartphones, your children can be contacted by a bully at all hours of the day, and bullies can – and often do  – share information with others easily to make the problem even worse. Sadly, nearly 40% of children in the United States have experienced cyber bullying at some point, yet only 38% of those kids are comfortable going to their parents about the issue.

One extremely important concern you may have regarding your child using a smartphone simply comes down to privacy. While sharing information online doesn’t necessarily mean something bad is happening, many people of all ages are unaware just how much of their data they are putting out there. As kids sign up for online services, download specific apps, and make posts on social media, they are creating a detailed online footprint that can be used by advertisers, governments, and hackers. Plus, in most cases, this data cannot be taken back once it has been published.

What laws and regulations are in place to protect my child?

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same is true when it comes to online activity and mobile phones. Government’s around the world have begun to take the privacy and well-being of children online more seriously, which has resulted in a multitude of new laws and regulations being introduced.

In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was passed to help set up a framework for companies that may have users who are minors. It outlines rules around providing consent for collecting of information for underage users. For example, parental consent must be given when children sign up for services where their private information may be shared with companies and other users. This includes guidelines for how parental consent is to be verified, the responsibility companies must have when marketing to underage users, and the requirement of a clear privacy policy that parents and their children can review.

Many experts and parents feel the current laws in many places around the world don’t go far enough, however. COPPA, as an example, was passed in 1998. While it may have been adequate at the time, a lot has changed since then and many aspects of online interactions may not be covered by the act.

Some countries have taken further steps to protect children online with new laws. In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced in 2018 with sweeping new rules for online service providers. Within these new rules were laws specifically designed with underage Internet users in mind. Users under the age of 16 have specific protections, and online service providers must seek parental consent before opening accounts for children and teenagers. 

The hard truth is that no law will ever be able to completely protect children online, and a lot of the responsibility ultimately falls on you as a parent to ensure that your child is safe.

What can I do to help protect my child?

When your child holds a smartphone in their hands, they are connected to the entire world. As such, protecting your child may seem like a daunting task, but there are a number of things you, as a parent, can do to ensure your child is enjoying the best that their smartphone has to offer while avoiding potential risks.

The most important thing you can do is to have honest and ongoing conversations about smartphone use and online safety. Take time to discuss the risks of communicating online and help your child understand that the people they are communicating with may not always have the best intentions. You can also help your child read and understand terms of service documents or privacy policies so that they are aware of just how much information they are about to share when signing up for a service or downloading apps in app stores like iTunes and Google Play. The same thing goes for in-app purchases.  Many people, adults included, simply ignore the important details of these documents and don’t consider the reality of what they are agreeing to.

Setting clear rules around smartphone usage can also go a long way in ensuring your child’s security. Things like sharing passwords with you, limiting smartphone usage to certain hours, taking away phones before bed, and allowing review or approval of apps and services before they are used can be very effective solutions. Also be sure to make it clear that you are always available to answer questions and concerns for your child. It’s unrealistic to expect that any family rules can completely eliminate the risks associated with smartphone use, but if your child feels comfortable coming to you then you are able to help address situations before they get out of hand.

Many companies have also introduced tools to help your monitor and control what your child does with their smartphone. Some apps can be installed that block certain services or websites, limit smartphone screen times, and even monitor conversations for problematic keywords that may indicate your child is at risk. Tracking apps can be helpful in monitoring your child’s location.  Many online interactions turn into real life meetings. A tracking app can help you verify that your kids are where they are supposed to be.

Ultimately, like implementing new laws, apps and services can only go so far in protecting your child when they use their smartphone. Education at home is key to ensuring that your kid has a positive experience online. Be available, be approachable, and stay up-to-date on the latest news and information regarding online security.

Some apps, services, and resources to consider

There are a number of services you can use to help you keep your child safe and secure when they begin using their own smartphone. Some of these services are free, while others may require a monthly or annual subscription.

Norton Family Premier is a paid service that costs $49.99 per year. With this service, you can protect and monitor an unlimited number of users and device, which is helpful if you have multiple children using smartphones, tablets, and laptops. While the service is one of the more expensive ones available, the peace of mind offered is priceless. Parents can set detailed rules and restrictions for blocking websites and inappropriate content, limiting device usage to specific hours, setting usage limits, tracking device location, and even remotely locking devices. In addition, Norton Family Premier can save a 30-day log of conversations on the device, including texting, so that parents can review who their child is talking to and the content they are discussing. This is an extremely valuable feature, especially if your the parent of a teenager, since sexting is becoming a rampant problem.  

Qustodio, much like Norton Family Premier, offers a variety of different monitoring and privacy settings. Plan pricing tiers begin at $39.95 per year and the price increases based on the number of devices you wish to protect. With cross-platform support, Qustodio offers some of the boadest protection available in the industry. You can get detailed reports delivered to you that outline how much time your child is using their device, what services they are using, and the content they are viewing or sharing online. One major downside of Qustodio is the limited social networking monitoring, which only includes major social networks like Facebook. Smaller networks that tend to attract kids who are always looking for the newest trend may not be covered.

Another top rated parental control app is Net Nanny. The web interface on Net Nanny is among the easiest to use and parents can set schedules for device usage much like other competing services. The location tracking feature provides a look into the location history of your child and monitoring of where they are when they’re out of the home. The one major downside of choosing Net Nanny is the lack of call or text message monitoring, which means that your child’s messages aren’t reviewable unless you physically check the device yourself.

In addition to monitoring services and apps, you may want to consider educational tools designed to help children understand their role in their own online security. Many Internet service providers have created their own child-friendly education portals and other companies have developed both paid and free solutions. These services put topics in a way kids can understand and even offer gaming-style elements to keep kids engaged in the content. An online privacy education tool can be a great way to supplement your own discussions with your children and give them the opportunity to explore and learn in a way that may be, dare we say, fun.

With these solutions, honest discussions at home, and a good awareness of what your child is doing online, you can feel well-equipped to ensure your child is safe, secure, and happy when they begin using their own smartphone.

Guide to Getting Your Record Expunged in 2021

It can be tough to progress in modern society if one has a criminal record. For example, it’s much harder to find a job, rent an apartment, or obtain financing arrangements like a car loan or mortgage. Therefore, it’s wise to consider all options to possibly remove criminal records like expungement. Expungement refers to removing criminal offenses of a record or even diminishing them to lesser misdemeanors. For example, reducing a DUI to a wet reckless is a common way to lessen criminal offenses.

This alone will make it much easier to progress in modern society and know that each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding expungement. Use this guide to learn about expungement, eligibility, related terms and case studies by state.

What is expungement?

Expungement or expunction is a process that entails erasing criminal history from one’s record. These criminal convictions can range from a variety of offenses from robbery, drug possession, prostitution, DUIs, petty theft, disorderly conduct and more. Generally, offenses that can be expunged are relatively minor, which is why they’re eligible for this treatment. Conversely, major crimes like child molestation, rape, murder and assault with a deadly weapon can’t be expunged as they have severe impacts on society,

After this has occurred, the individual doesn’t need to disclose this offense to prospective landlords nor employers. Some landlords conduct a background check, credit check, and require three references. They do this to ensure that the renter can pay the rent on time and has good character. However, fewer landlords ask about criminal backgrounds and it varies by company. Employers have asked candidates about criminal records in the past, via questions on the application form. Per legal website Nolo, 92% of employers check an applicant’s history for criminal offenses and this is more common in highly regulated industries like financial services.

Also,  expunged offenses won’t appear on a background check, so important circles of influence won’t know about it. Applicants can legally answer “no” if they’ve been convicted of a crime if they have expunged offenses. This process can be seen as a second chance for the convicted party, as it won’t impact their societal progression.

However, keep in mind that expunged crimes are never truly gone as legal jurisdictions and other government agencies can still see these past offenses.  Some government agencies ranging from local police departments, state highway patrol or even federal agencies like the DEA and FBI will be able to see expunged records. This access would be limited to just these groups.  Unlike other similar terms, it can’t be accessed by the public, even with a court petition. These past offenses can be used by government officials against a defendant in a court of law for other crimes committed or even during immigration hearings. 

For instance, immigrants that have committed new crimes and have expunged offenses could be deported. Legal authorities could use expunged offenses to push for deportation, which occurs in states with a high immigrant population like California.

Some minor offenses like parking tickets or petty theft that are expunged won’t have an impact on immigration. Conversely, major offenses related to undocumented entry, drugs, trafficking, and violent crimes can be used against a non-citizen. Another exception to this rule is for the nondocumented entry of asylum seekers waiting for approval.

Who is eligible for it?

Eligibility is based on many factors like the severity of the crime, state, and years passed. Also, each state sets its own rules for expungement, which is important to know. However, most states share common basic tenants for eligibility in their court records such as:

  1. The person has paid all fines and restitution in full.
  2. He or she has met all waiting periods prior to petitioning expungement.
  3. This person has no new or pending charges.
  4. He or she has completed all probation or community service requirements.
  5. Crimes and infractions must be deemed eligible by each state. Lesser ones like first time DUIs can generally be expunged with a clean driving record and time. Conversely, murder and rape will almost never be expunged.
  6. Criminal proceedings were either dismissed or the person was found not guilty. This can also apply to those that were acquitted after a trial or found not guilty after being proven innocent. Unfortunately, some people have been convicted of crimes, served time only to be acquitted through DNA evidence. These people would have these crimes expunged and the  Innocence Project is a group that is committed to ending wrongful convictions using DNA testing.

It’s also important to note that each state treats the expungement of minors and adults differently. Minors are considered children and apply to those who are under the age of majority. The age of majority can vary by state, but it’s usually around 18. Also, each state has different rules for ages when one can marry, file for emancipation, or enter into contracts.

Fortunately, most states automatically expunge most crimes for minors as they don’t want these youth to have their juvenile record impact their transition to adulthood. This simple step can prevent repeat offenders as those with criminal records are more likely to return to prison, as their records prevent them from accomplishing standard societal tasks.

The three main steps toward expungement

Expungement can vary based on many variables, but it has a straightforward three-step process:

1. Learn about eligibility

As mentioned above, many non-serious crimes are eligible for expungement after sufficient time and if the person hasn’t committed any additional offenses. It’s wise to use a site like a state’s courthouse or consulting with the defense and prosecuting attorneys on that particular case. Sometimes, defense attorneys will negotiate with the prosecution regarding expungement if the person meets all the requirements. Check with the defense attorney to see if this conversation occurred along with the specific terms of the agreement.

2. File a petition

If the defendant is eligible, he or she has to file a petition with the courthouse. Then, the defendant will have to pay a fee, wait for paper processing and book a hearing with a judge. Keep in mind that the paperwork for each state is different with some states like Florida only requiring a certificate of eligibility form. Conversely, California requires three forms which are the petition for dismissal, order for dismissal and a declaration.

Be sure to meticulously fill out the paperwork as small mistakes can impede this process by months. Some large mistakes will force the defendant to start over, wasting both money and time. In many states, defendants have to file petitions in the counties in which they were convicted of a crime.

3. Hire a competent attorney

Working with the right attorney can save the defendant money and time. Attorneys might seem expensive, but they can save more money over the long term as they can expedite the process and ensure the paperwork is filled out correctly. Also, the attorney can accompany the defendant in the expungement hearing and speak on his or her behalf. Some counties have attorneys that specialize in this process like the team with the “New Leaf” program in Orange County, CA.

Expungement mistakes

Expungement is a detailed process that has many moving parts and can be complex. Therefore, it makes sense to learn about these errors as this will prevent unnecessary hardship when removing it from the public record. Some common mistakes to avoid are:

1. Doing it all yourself

There are some options that allow you to do this process by yourself, but these aren’t recommended. Expungement is an intricate process and there is significant room for error. For example, using one wrong form or incorrectly filling out the paperwork can delay claims by months. Also, most candidates will have to present themselves before a judge, which can be nerve-wracking and presents another challenge.

Instead, consider working with a competent attorney or even a public defender to find legal representation. Having professional guidance will alleviate any necessary headaches and streamline the expungement process.

2. Not being proactive

Self-starters have a great advantage in many aspects of life from getting a job, starting a business, achieving fitness goals and even getting past offenses expunged. Many people erroneously believe certain offenses will automatically fall of their records. For example, they assume first-time DUIs will vanish after 7 years in California. This isn’t the case, making it crucial to start the process, use the right counsel and complete deadlines on time.

3. Failing to understand the differences between similar terms

Expungement has many related terms like dismissal, sealing, and rehabilitation. Each process has similarities and differences. For instance, sealing records keeps them out of the public view like expungement. It differs as the records can be accessed by the public only via a court petition. Other times, it makes sense to seek a case dismissal if there is faulty or insufficient evidence. These terms and a few others will be explained in more detail below.

Related terms

There are many related terms to expungement laws that can similar, yet different meanings. It’s important to understand these thoroughly as each one has a unique impact on criminal records.

1. Pardon

A pardon is similar to expungement, but it still shows that the person committed the crime. Unlike an expungement, the crime isn’t sealed away and can be accessed by the public. So, if the defendant is filling out a job application asking about criminal offenses, he or she would have to mark that they’ve had a criminal offense. Also, they can explain the pardon and the reasoning behind it in these applications.

Pardons also restore certain rights like the ability to purchase guns or not have to register as a sex offender. These applicants must also complete parole, probation and not commit further crimes. Using pardons are becoming rarer as government officials fear a backlash. For example, President Clinton pardoned tax evader Marc Rich during his last week in office. Marc’s crimes could have made him eligible criminal charges like a life sentence, but President Clinton pardoned him, which caused controversy among both democrats and republicans.

2. Dismissal

Dismissal occurs when a court has insufficient evidence for a conviction. These can include having unscrupulous witnesses, poor DNA evidence or a lack of other reasonable evidence. This process can also occur if the defendant has completed community service or another treatment program. However, a dismissed case will still appear on a background check, but it will say that the person wasn’t convicted of a crime.

3. Sealing

Sealing can be seen as a less extreme form of expungement as it still has the record of the offense. This record can’t be accessed through a background check although it still exists in a court database. So prospective lenders, landlords, and employers can’t access sealed records. Also, applicants can legally answer no if they’ve been convicted of a criminal offense. The only time these records can be accessed by the public is via petitioning a court order.

4. Certificate of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation shows that the defendant has committed the crime, but paid their debts to society and is rehabilitated. This process is used to recover important rights that were forfeited with a criminal record. Some of the most important rights that can be restored are not having to register as a sex offender and those related to occupations. For instance, many professional fields like nursing don’t allow people with criminal records to practice. A certificate of rehabilitation will help these people re-enter or train to become licensed professionals.

This program can even be used to automatically file for a governor’s pardon and can be obtained by filing a court petition with letters of character. These letters of character can be references from parole officers, former employers, and counselors.

5. Certificate of Innocence

A Certificate of Innocence goes beyond a pardon as it states that the person should have never been convicted or arrested and was innocent. Some states allow people to gain a certificate of innocence if their crime was already expunged. People can acquire this certificate if a court acquitted them or if the court dismissed their case. There have been times when courts dismiss cases due to lack of evidence or poor quality witnesses. Others suggest working with a public defender, petitioning the judge or asking the arresting law enforcement agency for this certificate.

Record expungement case studies by State

Each state has different rules, and this section will highlight some of the rules from the largest ones like Texas, California, and New York. First, the person must ask the court for the records to be sealed. This process was explained above, but it generally means that the crime will not be available for the public.


In Texas, some offenses don’t have waiting periods while others do and this is based on the severity of the crime. For example, the following offenses have no waiting period:

  • Gambling
  • Prostitution
  • Marijuana Possession
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Burglary of a coin operating machine

More serious offenses, like the ones shown below, have a two-year waiting period. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Assault
  • Bigamy
  • Possession of an unauthorized weapon
  • Riot
  • Public Lewdness

Once the waiting period and the paperwork is filed, it can take an additional 6 months to a year to expunge a case.

New York

New York is an interesting state as defendants can’t expunge their records there. Instead, defendants have the option to seal their records. These records won’t be accessed by employers but can be shown to government agencies. Like most states, New York allows juvenile offenders to seal most crimes committed under the age of 16. This is beneficial as this rap sheet won’t follow them into their adult years.

New York also has stricter rules for common offenses like DUIs (Driving under the influence)  or DWIs (Driving while impaired). These two offenses are similar and many states define DUIs as driving with alcohol impairment and DWIs as being impaired via illegal drugs or prescription medication. New York doesn’t allow expungement for either offense, yet other states can have these records expunged after a certain amount of time. For example, most first time DUI offenders in California can get their record expunged between 4-7 years. Most people assume that DUIs will automatically be expunged after 7 years, but this isn’t the case, making it imperative to be proactive, and when in states like California (up next), a necessity to attempt to reduce penalties for a DUI conviction.


California is one of the largest states and has many expungement rules including prohibiting employers asking candidates about arrests that didn’t lead to convictions. So, these employers can’t ask interviewees if they’ve been arrested nor if they’ve participated in rehabilitation programs. Labor law also prohibits using this information when hiring, promoting or terminating an applicant. However, private employers in California can ask about past convictions on job applications.

The expungement process generally takes between 90 - 120 days. However, filing a petition for expungement can take 6 or more depending on the time passed, case complexity, if it’s a felony or misdemeanor, and case location. If a case is in the courthouse’s computer system, it will be processed quicker than a hard or even non-existent copy. Larger California counties like Los Angeles County have slower expungement times, with it taking 60 - 90 days just to retrieve the old case. Keep in mind that this usually applies to cases that are older than 10 years.

Conversely, smaller counties like Orange County are much quicker and can turn cases around in the 90-day range.

Expungement Resources


Nolo is a premier online legal resource that has many legal products like ebooks, software, and forms. It offers guidance on a wide variety of legal topics including dismissals, expungement, and sealing. This site is a helpful resource, but it’s not a substitute for formal legal advice.

Innocence Project: 

The Innocence Project is an organization that exonerates innocent prisoners of crimes they didn’t commit. Many of these prisoners were convicted decades ago when technology like DNA testing couldn’t prove their innocence. Fast forward to the present day, technology has become very precise especially tools relating to forensic science.

This group also helps reform the justice system and prevent unjust convictions by identifying inadequate defense strategies, government misconduct, and false confessions. They also assist law enforcement agencies to improve their forensic processes to stop innocent people from being sent to prison.

New Leaf Program: 

The New Leaf Program is conducted through the Orange County Public Defender. This California based organization helps those that have been convicted of past crimes get on their feet through providing opportunities to obtain employment, improve credit and even professional licenses. This group also works with offenders by reducing felonies to misdemeanors and providing certificates of rehabilitation. These certificates of rehabilitation are available to those that have completed prison sentences and haven’t committed any additional crimes.

They can also assist past offenders with other related services like sealing arrest records, pardons, and dismissals.

State rules for the age of majority, emancipation, etc..

Each state has its own unique government and rules. This link breaks down each state’s policy on topics like the age of majority, marriage, emancipation, and contracts. For example, South Carolina allows people as young as 16 to marry each other, provided they have parental permission.

Ban the Box

Ban the Box is a civil rights campaign that strives to exclude questions about past crimes on housing and job applications. This organization was founded in 2004 and seeks to give past convicts that have been rehabilitated a fair chance in society. Fortunately, their efforts have been successful as over 45 counties and cities have banned conviction questions on job applications. Recently, Newark, New Jersey has banned this question on the housing application, leading to diminished housing discrimination.

Bottom line

Having a criminal record isn’t optimal and can set one back in society. It makes fundamental tasks like finding a good job or place to live much harder. Luckily, expungement or record sealing can reduce misdemeanor convictions or even eliminate these offenses, allowing people to get on the right track. Keep in mind that each state has different expungement rules, making it important to be able to adapt to those. There are also many mistakes to avoid when going through the expungement process and related terms like a pardon. This guide went into detail regarding case studies and criminal records after expungement as well.

Disclaimer: This guide is general education, not legal advice. Consult an attorney or legal advisor for legal advice.

Top 100 School Districts – 2021

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What makes a great school district? Can a school district actually influence the success of its students? These are questions that parents, educators, and politicians have asked for years. Of course, gifted students can often overcome any challenges that are put in their way. However, is there anything school districts can do to push their students over the top when compared with other districts?

After taking a deep dive into the data and looking at school districts around the country, we have found some interesting trends that may suggest what factors play a role in making a school district one of the top districts in the country and what may leave some districts behind. While grades and test scores are important, there is more to a great school district than just the numbers on a report card.

Does Population Play a Role?

One of the most noticeable facts about the top districts in the country is that 8 of the top 10 districts in the country are located in California, the most populated state in the Union. Further, most of those districts are located in major cities or suburbs of major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara.

Does simply living in or near a big city mean that the school districts are automatically better? While that’s not necessarily true for all major cities, it does appear to be an advantage. It really boils down to dollars and cents. Areas with a larger population have a larger tax base to draw from and, in turn, have more money per student to dedicate to funding school districts. This is an important factor in our rankings and it also influences other factors that we consider for the rankings.

Simply put, districts with more money can buy better equipment and build better facilities. These districts can hire more teachers to keep the student to teacher ratio low, they can afford to hire experienced teachers that demand a higher salary.

Dollars and Cents Part Two

Money isn’t everything but it sure is a good indicator about whether or not a school district will score highly. Having a large population is one thing but what is the state of that population? Wealthier cities not only have a large tax base to draw from but their tax base earns more income and, in turn, pays higher taxes. This means more money is available to help influence many of the important rankings we consider like funding per student, quality of teachers, and student to teacher ratio.

It should come as no surprise that cities appearing on the top 100 list like San Francisco, Fairfield, Santa Rosa, Honolulu, and New York also appear in the list of the wealthiest cities in America. Therefore, it should also come as no surprise that the poorest cities in America do not appear on the list of the top school districts in the country.

Do Educated Adults Raise Educated Children?

Of course, schools can’t do it all on their own. Home life can play a major role in a child’s success at school as well as later in life. Therefore, it would stand to reason that children raised in a home or city with a large number of college or university educated adults would be more driven to complete their schooling and move onto higher education.

Graduation rates play a major role in scoring school districts. After all, school districts can pour money into building fancy facilities, hiring the best staff, and keeping student to teacher ratios low but if they are not graduating a high number of students that all of the money has gone to waste.

With this in mind, it comes as no shock that some of the most educated cities in America also appear in the top school districts list. Conversely, none of the least educated cities in America appear in the list of top school districts.

There could be two reasons for this. First of all, kids with examples of educated individuals at home or in their community may see the benefits of completing high school right before their eyes. Individuals with college or university degrees are 117 times more likely to be multi-millionaires and college-educated individuals are expected to earn nearly a million dollars more than those who don’t attend college.

Secondly, kids raised in homes where adults may not have achieved higher education don’t necessarily have a worse home life. However, they may see their parents achieving good careers despite a lack of higher education or even completing high school. There may not be that push to follow in their parents’ footsteps and go to college or university. They may believe that a high quality of life can be achieved in spite of education level.

While the level of education in a community does not necessarily indicate students will graduate at a higher level, it would appear that cities with a lack of higher education degrees do not score as highly in our rankings. With graduation levels being an important part of that scoring process, it begs the question as to why some districts perform so well in this area while others do not.

The Rural vs Urban Divide

We mentioned earlier that highly populated cities tend to appear more frequently on the list than rural communities. While this may largely be due to the tax base size funding the school districts, could there be more at play?

According to census data, urban communities have a higher median household income than rural communities. Combine that with the population factor and it’s easy to see why urban school districts have more funding to affect many of the factors we consider for our rankings.

Could this be a snowball effect that has been building over time? Every year this divide could be growing for a number of reasons. Wealthy urban school districts will graduate more students who, in turn, will seek higher education at greater rates, earn more money, and fund more of their tax dollars into school systems for the next generation.

There is also the phenomenon of people moving from rural areas to urban areas. In fact, the 50 largest cities in the United States have all experienced population growth in recent years. Every single one of these large cities have grown as people move into cities for better job opportunities, a higher quality of life, and perhaps even better school districts for their children.

With these statistics in mind, it’s understandable why urban school districts appear to be outperforming rural districts. Furthermore, it would appear to suggest that the trend could continue which would only widen the gap between urban and rural school districts and increase the pace at which this gap continues to grow.

Do Politics Play a Role?

The question must be asked whether conservative vs liberal states plays any role in determining whether a school district will appear on the list of top districts. Some people may assume that a blue state may perhaps collect more taxes and, in turn, fund districts more generously to achieve higher scores and rankings. We looked at the most recent presidential election to compare the red and blue states to see if there is any sort of trend.

While blue state California appears to dominate the top of the list, the distribution beyond that appears to be fairly even between red and blue states. Texas, for example, appears a number of times in the top 100. Other red states like Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania also appear several times in the top 100 list. There doesn’t appear to be a clear trend where politics would play a role in determining whether a state has more school districts in the top 100. Conversely, some red and blue states were entirely absent from the top 100 list meaning that politics also wouldn’t appear to play a role in preventing a state from making the top 100 list.

What Makes a Great School District?

Our methodology considers a number of factors when scoring and ranking school districts. Strong graduation rates, the total number of students, high teacher quality, high school funding per student, and high test scores all positively affect a district’s score while high student to teacher ratios can negatively affect a school’s rating.

What influences all of these factors? There’s no one single factor to point at but it largely boils down to money. Districts with more students and higher funding per student would theoretically be able to hire better teachers, hire more teachers, and positively influence test scores and graduation rates using those methods. This is not to say that poorly scoring school districts necessarily hire bad teachers or deliver poor test scores consistently across the board but there is a definite visible trend.

Population also appears to play a role. More people means more students and tax revenue to fund school districts which, again, can positively affect many of the factors we consider when scoring and ranking school districts.

Is there a way to bridge the gap between the districts in the top 100 and the districts that fail to make the grade? Without some kind of redistribution of funding from populated, wealthy areas to rural, poorer communities, it would appear that it may be harder for rural school districts to crack the top 100 list despite their best efforts.

However, while rural districts may not be able to achieve the level of funding that urban districts enjoy, they can influence some factors in spite of this. Keeping student to teacher ratios low could strongly affect scores in that area of our methodology and perhaps increase scores in other areas like test scores and graduation rates. It’s unlikely we will see rural districts take over the top of the list any time soon but there is nothing saying that these districts cannot make improvements and challenge for a spot in the top 100 despite the clear funding challenges they face.

After all, for all the money talk, a great school district is built on people. The students and teachers in the district are what ultimately determines if a district is successful or not. Dedicated teachers, hard-working students, and passionate administration are all things that money can’t buy.

Top 100 School Districts in America in 2019

RankSchool DistrictCityStateCounty
1San Mateo County Office Of EducationRedwood CityCaliforniaSan Mateo County
2San Francisco County Office Of EducationSan FranciscoCaliforniaSan Francisco County
3Santa Barbara County Office Of EducationSanta BarbaraCaliforniaSanta Barbara County
4Los Angeles UnifiedLos AngelesCaliforniaLos Angeles County
5San Diego County Office Of EducationSan DiegoCaliforniaSan Diego County
6Marin County Office Of EducationSan RafaelCaliforniaMarin County
7Sonoma County Office Of EducationSanta RosaCaliforniaSonoma County
8DadeMiamiFloridaMiami-Dade County
9Imperial County Office Of EducationEl CentroCaliforniaImperial County
10City Of Chicago Sd 299ChicagoIllinoisCook County
11Clark County School DistrictLas VegasNevadaClark County
12BrowardFort LauderdaleFloridaBroward County
13Tehama County Department Of EducationRed BluffCaliforniaTehama County
14Fairfax Co Pblc SchsFalls ChurchVirginiaFairfax County
15Intermediate School District 287PlymouthMinnesotaHennepin County
16Mcmullen County IsdTildenTexasMcMullen County
17Houston IsdHoustonTexasHarris County
18Copper Country IsdHancockMichiganHoughton County
19Eaton ResaCharlotteMichiganEaton County
20Eastern Upper Peninsula IsdSault S MarieMichiganChippewa County
21HillsboroughTampaFloridaHillsborough County
22Kings County Office Of EducationHanfordCaliforniaKings County
23OrangeOrlandoFloridaOrange County
24San Luis Obispo County Office Of EducationSan Luis ObispoCaliforniaSan Luis Obispo County
25Clinton County ResaSaint JohnsMichiganClinton County
26Palm BeachWest Palm BeachFloridaPalm Beach County
27Glasscock County IsdGarden CityTexasGlasscock County
28Dallas IsdDallasTexasDallas County
29Montgomery County Public SchoolsRockvilleMarylandMontgomery County
30Hawaii Department Of EducationHonoluluHawaiiHonolulu County
31Placer County Office Of EducationAuburnCaliforniaPlacer County
32Rankin IsdRankinTexasUpton County
33Gwinnett CountyLawrencevilleGeorgiaGwinnett County
34Wake County SchoolsCaryNorth CarolinaWake County
35Cypress-fairbanks IsdHoustonTexasHarris County
36Sutter County Office Of EducationYuba CityCaliforniaSutter County
37Los Angeles County Office Of EducationDowneyCaliforniaLos Angeles County
38Solano County Office Of EducationFairfieldCaliforniaSolano County
39Northside IsdSan AntonioTexasBexar County
40Charlotte-mecklenburg SchoolsCharlotteNorth CarolinaMecklenburg County
41Gratiot-isabella ResdIthacaMichiganGratiot County
42Katy IsdKatyTexasFort Bend County
43Prince William Co Pblc SchsManassasVirginiaPrince William County
44Loudoun Co Pblc SchsAshburnVirginiaLoudoun County
45Livingston EsaHowellMichiganLivingston County
46San Diego UnifiedSan DiegoCaliforniaSan Diego County
47Austin IsdAustinTexasTravis County
48Frisco IsdFriscoTexasCollin County
49DuvalJacksonvilleFloridaDuval County
50Fort Bend IsdSugar LandTexasFort Bend County
51Jericho Union Free School DistrictJerichoNew YorkNassau County
52Va Beach City Pblc SchsVirginia BeachVirginiaVirginia Beach city
53City On A Hill Charter Public School Circuit Street (districBostonMassachusettsSuffolk County
54Minuteman Regional Vocational TechnicalLexingtonMassachusettsMiddlesex County
55Irion County IsdMertzonTexasIrion County
56Karnes City IsdKarnes CityTexasKarnes County
57Concord-carlisleConcordMassachusettsMiddlesex County
58Van Buren IsdLawrenceMichiganVan Buren County
59Lake And Peninsula Borough School DistrictKing SalmonArkansasBristol Bay Borough
60Plano IsdPlanoTexasCollin County
61Humboldt County Office Of EducationEurekaCaliforniaHumboldt County
62Stanislaus County Office Of EducationModestoCaliforniaStanislaus County
63Cobb CountyMariettaGeorgiaCobb County
64Essex North Shore Agricultural And Technical School DistrictHathorneMassachusettsEssex County
65North East IsdSan AntonioTexasBexar County
66Northeast Metro 916White Bear LakeMinnesotaRamsey County
67Lenawee IsdAdrianMichiganLenawee County
68Conroe IsdConroeTexasMontgomery County
69Byram Hills Central School DistrictArmonkNew YorkWestchester County
70Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational TechnicalCharltonMassachusettsWorcester County
71Wexford-missaukee IsdCadillacMichiganWexford County
72Lewisville IsdLewisvilleTexasDenton County
73Round Rock IsdRound RockTexasWilliamson County
74Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational TechnicalUptonMassachusettsWorcester County
75Mastery Chs - Lenfest CampusPhiladelphiaPennsylvaniaPhiladelphia County
76Assabet Valley Regional Vocational TechnicalMarlboroughMassachusettsMiddlesex County
77Fort Worth IsdFort WorthTexasTarrant County
78Allegan Area Educational Service AgencyAlleganMichiganAllegan County
79Cheb-otsego-presque Isle EsdIndian RiverMichiganCheboygan County
80San Bernardino County Office Of EducationSan BernardinoCaliforniaSan Bernardino County
81North Shore Central School DistrictSea CliffNew YorkNassau County
82Syosset Central School DistrictSyossetNew YorkNassau County
83Tuscola IsdCaroMichiganTuscola County
84Locust Valley Central School DistrictLocust ValleyNew YorkNassau County
85Sturgis Charter Public (district)HyannisMassachusettsBarnstable County
86Washtenaw IsdAnn ArborMichiganWashtenaw County
87PinellasLargoFloridaPinellas County
88Baltimore County Public SchoolsTowsonMarylandBaltimore County
89New Trier Twp Hsd 203NorthfieldIllinoisCook County
90Chesterfield Co Pblc SchsChesterfieldVirginiaChesterfield County
91Martha's VineyardVineyard HavenMassachusettsDukes County
92Highland Park IsdDallasTexasDallas County
93Borden County IsdGailTexasBorden County
94Prince George's County Public SchoolsUpper MarlboroMarylandPrince George's County
95Falls City IsdFalls CityTexasKarnes County
96Shasta County Office Of EducationReddingCaliforniaShasta County
97Klein IsdKleinTexasHarris County
98Jefferson CountyLouisvilleKentuckyJefferson County
99Lincoln-sudburySudburyMassachusettsMiddlesex County
100Norfolk County AgriculturalWalpoleMassachusettsNorfolk County

Did your district make the list?

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Most Bullied States in America – 2019

Bullying is a pervasive problem that can appear in schools, workplaces, and even public spaces. The effects of bullying can be short term and long term, following people long after the occurrences of bullying have actually taken place with dire consequences.

While all states have implemented some kind of anti-bullying law, there are still many high-profile cases of bullying leading to suicide attempts among youth. The prevalence of cyberbullying makes it challenging for adults and educators to monitor bullying and gives youths unlimited access to their victims at all hours of the day. Cyberbullying can also fall in a grey area outside of school bullying policies and procedures.

Ultimately bullying is a quality of life concern and there are some shocking statistics that show just how devastating bullying can be.

  • Bullying, both those being bullied and those doing the bullying, leads to an increase in suicidal behavior

  • As many as 1 in 3 students report being bullied

  • Public health experts have called for bullying to be declared as a public health crisis

  • Bullying can lead to changes in eating habits, sleep disruption, poor school performance, chronic depression, self-harm, among many other consequences

  • Bullies can also experience difficulties in life including increased risk of substance abuse, future spousal or child abuse, challenges with building relationships, and more


Despite many changes, bullying has proven to be a challenging teenage crisis to manage in many states. Even as states have implemented new laws like the Missouri Cyberbullying Law and the Tennessee Anti-Bullying Law, there is still a clear problem with bullying that has not been eliminated.

Louisiana, for example, still leads the nation in incidents of bullying with nearly 1 in 4 students reporting being bullied and a staggering 1 in 10 students reporting being threatened or harmed with a weapon at school. Other states that have previously ranked poorly like Arkansas and Mississippi have failed to show much improvement with regards to their ranking on the list.

bullied states-heatmap

The data gathered also shows that many of the states struggling with bullying on school property are also seeing that problem extend to the digital world. The states with the most students reporting being bullied online are the same states that tend to rank amongst the highest for students reporting being bullied at school.

electronically bullied
harrassment threats
teachers injury
threatened weapon
physical fight

Ranking of the most bullied states in America in 2019

2District of Columbia
14Rhode Island
19West Virginia
20South Carolina
28North Carolina
30New York
31New Mexico
32South Dakota
37New Hampshire
43New Jersey
51North Dakota


There are a number of metrics used to create the rankings for most bullied states. Each metric fits within a group of similar metrics and that group is given a weighting which is as follows:

  • Bullying occurrence score – 50%

  • School violence score – 25%

  • Bullying impact score – 20%

  • State bullying laws – 5%

After the weightings have been evaluated, each state is left with a bullying score. The states with the highest scores have the largest challenges with bullying currently.

Insights from data

There are a number of important insights that can be drawn from the bullying data collected. This can help indicate the trends regarding bullying and maybe even identify states where efforts are proving to be successful for other states to duplicate in their own communities.

Has it gotten better or worse?

An initial look at the rankings and scores seems to indicate that the fight against bullying is proving to be ineffective. Some states like Louisiana remain near the top of the list for most bullied states as they have in the past. For a few states, the scores have been trending even worse over time despite new laws and awareness campaigns aimed at bullying.

However, give the list more than a cursory look and it’s possible to see some positives as states work hard to address the challenges presented by bullying. Idaho is one example, moving from their position as the second most bullied state to find themselves in the middle of the rankings. West Virginia also made a similar move. In fact, aside from the topmost bullied states, other states have appeared to make important strides in reducing bullying in their state.

What can be attributed to this change? It may be hard to pick out any one reason but many states have stepped up enforcement when it comes to bullying. Take Missouri, for example. The state has made it a felony to bully someone and take charge of school bullying policies and procedures by making it mandatory for schools to report cases of bullying to the authorities.

California and North Carolina have gone a step further with legislation to target cyberbullying. Students can face significant fines and jail time even if their bullying extends beyond school property and into the online domain. Of course, laws cannot singlehandedly solve these deep issues as shown in Louisiana which also adopted laws addressing bullying in classrooms and online. Clearly, laws are just one piece of the puzzle.

Can AI prevent cyberbullying?

Artificial intelligence is a buzzword being used a lot for everything from chatbots to diagnosing medical conditions to fighting bullying. In fact, Instagram announced in late 2018 that they would be implementing AI to help combat bullying on their platform.

The feature promises to proactively detect bullying in photos so that adults can quickly step in and stop the behavior before it progresses. Other apps for different social media platforms have been developed with varying degrees of success. Using AI, moderators can be notified of potential bullying much faster than if humans were to manually review all posts and comments.

Of course, technology can not do the job on its own. Most experts and bullying resources believe that stopping bullying begins with better education, communication, and understanding. Combined with AI, a complete anti-bullying strategy could prove to be successful.

Tips to getting rid of trolls

Bullying has been around long before the Internet and it may continue to exist in some form despite the best efforts of educators, parents, and artificial intelligence. Here are some tips that teenagers can use online when they feel they are being bullied by trolls:

  • Block and report offending users

  • Share bullying incidents with trusted adults

  • Document cyberbullying with screenshots

  • Watch for signs of cyberbullying in youth like depression, changes in device use, and emotional changes

For further reading

Many of the resources below can help educators, parents, and teens better understand the consequences of bullying, how to identify the signs of bullying, and how to prevent bullying in classrooms as well as online.

U.S. Prison Population vs. The World: Statistics and Insights

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There have been a lot of hot button political issues in the United States in recent years. These stories dominate the news cycle and then make way for the next big story. But one topic in particular has been slowly bubbling just below the surface for many years: the rate of incarceration in the United States. 

Everyone from political candidates to celebrities like Kim Kardashian have taken up the incarceration rate in the United States as their personal pet cause. 

So, why has this become such a major issue for some, and what has happened to bring the discussion to this point?

Like many complex political and social issues, there is no one cause that anyone can point to the number of people who are currently incarcerated in the United States. Rather, this is a challenge that has been created over time as a result of a number of laws, social changes, and policy directives from government. Some may even wonder if this is even really a crisis at all. 

When comparing the US prison population vs the world, is there much of a difference to note?

Politicians from both parties have often quoted Bureau of Justice statistics that the United States, despite having only about 5% of the world’s population, is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Hillary Clinton mentioned this statistic several times in the run up to her presidential run. Republican Rand Paul has also made similar claims in the past. And, for the most part, these numbers are fairly accurate according to The Washington Post.

Clearly, the imprisonment rate in the United States is disproportionate to the total population. If it were to be assumed that people around the world commit crimes at a relatively similar rate, then it would stand to reason that the United States should only be home to about 5% of the world’s prison population. 

So why are crime rates - and the numbers - so out of line? And, more importantly, what can be done to change this?  Or, for that matter, does anything even need to be done?

This article is going to take a deeper look at incarceration rates by country to see where other countries rank, what could be contributing to such a high incarceration rate, and what other countries are doing differently than the United States to keep their prison and jail populations low.

Important statistics to consider

When looking simply at prison population totals by country, it is easy to see that the United States is not in good company. Just in terms of real numbers without accounting for per capita totals, the United States leads the list by a hefty margin with over 2 million people currently incarcerated. 

Next on the list is China with over 1.5 million people in prison. As the most populous country on the planet, it would be expected that China should be near the top of the list. 

However, it should also be noted that China is widely criticized for taking drastic steps including imprisoning journalists who go against the communist regime’s narrative, building detention camps for Muslimsdetaining Canadian citizens in the midst of a legal dispute between the countries governments, and arresting political dissidents at a rate that leads the world.

After China on the list of prisoner totals comes Russia. This is another country known for jailing journalists, arresting political dissidents, and even making laws against “gay propaganda.” Following Russia on this list are Brazil, India, and Mexico with their own unique challenges regarding human rights and incarceration.

Of course, prison population totals only tells a part of the story. It stands to reason that countries with higher populations will, in turn, have higher prison populations. Therefore, an incarceration rate per 100,000 people is a statistic often used to help analyze which counties are actually jailing people at a much higher rate than their peers. 

Even when sorting using this method, the United States still leads the world in incarceration rates with 737 people in prison per 100,000 citizens. Russia is second on the list with 615 and then there is a noticeable drop off with countries like Ukraine, South Africa, and Poland on the list.

Many people point to drug offenses and the War on Drugs, which was started by Richard Nixon, as a cause of the high mass incarceration rates in the United States. In fact, in the last 40 years, the prison population total in the United States has increased nearly 600%, while the overall population of the United States has only increased 51%. That is a drastic change that directly coincides with the beginning of the War on Drugs.

With the War on Drugs came many mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug-related crimes. And, according to the United States Sentencing Commission, mandatory minimum sentencing laws have had a significant impact on the size of the overall prison population in the United States. 

Many critics of mandatory minimum sentences believe that this policy unfairly imprisons non-violent drug offenders and fails to address the root cause of drug crime. In addition, it can also lead to a first-time offender being sentenced the same way that a repeat offender would be sentenced. 

With mandatory minimums, there is no room for creative sentencing that may help ensure offenders get the help they need to stay away from a life of crime.

Many also point to a racial disparity in prison populations to argue that there may be racial bias present when sentencing. For example, African Americans are jailed at a rate 5 times higher than whites and, despite only making up 32% of the population in the United States, African Americans and Hispanics make up 56% of the prison population total. 

This racial bias is partially confirmed by a former Nixon advisor, who said this in a 1994 interview:

“We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

By looking at the clear statistics showing the US prison population vs the world and considering the factors like the War on Drugs that may have contributed to this, people can begin to get a grasp on why the United States is home to such a disproportionately high number of prisoners. But these basic statistics do not tell the full story. There are other smaller factors that must also be looked at.

Recidivism rates in the United States

One basic way to judge whether a sentencing and prison system is working is the rates of recidivism. This shows how many people end up back in prison after being released for their first sentence. Essentially, it tells people whether the prison system is reforming people or if it is only continuing the cycle of crime and incarceration.

The rate of recidivism in the United States is 70% within 5 years. Simply put, 70% of freed inmates will be arrested again within 5 years. This is in stark contrast to Norway, which boasts the lowest recidivism rates in the world at just 20% within 5 years. 

What is the cause of this massive difference? Norway puts a heavy emphasis on rehabilitation. Inmates are given opportunities to train and learn new skills so that they can be better positioned for success when released. Prisoners have enclosed washrooms within their cells, excellent workout facilities, and on-site medical access. 

American prisons also claim to rehabilitate rather than punish but there are some policies like solitary confinement suggest there is still much work to be done. Prisoners in some states can be made to work on factory lines during their sentence for far less than minimum wage. In other states, some felons are unable to get back some basic rights like the ability to vote, even after they have served their time. These challenges can make it difficult to integrate back into society and, ultimately, may contribute to increased recidivism rates.

Crime begins early

There are some interesting juvenile incarceration statistics that may play a role in the significant incarceration rate in the United States. For starters, the United States has the most imprisoned minors of any country in the world with 60,000 in juvenile detention facilities and 95,000 in adult facilities. 

In addition, studies have shown that up to 57% of juvenile offenders will re-offend in adulthood. With the high rates of recidivism among adult offenders discussed above, the significant imprisonment of minors may be a starting point for many long-time offenders who are continuously in and out of the prison system throughout their lives.

Not all juvenile offenders may end up in prison facilities for minor crimes like petty vandalism. However, intervention is an important tool to ensure that young offenders have positive outcomes later in life. 

Studies have shown that treatments like mental health counseling can greatly improve future results for juvenile offenders and keep them out of the prison system. Unfortunately, these services are not always available or affordable for those who need them. As a result, important intervention opportunities may be missed and youth criminals may eventually graduate to more serious crimes throughout their teenage and adult years.

Prison system quality

The quality of a prison system can play a major role in recidivism outcomes, as mentioned above in the example comparing Norway and the United States. While the United States is not home to the worst prison systems in the world like those found in China, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela, there is an opportunity for improvement.

One main criticism of the US prison system is the for-profit prisons. These are privately owned and operated prisons that are contracted by the government to house prisoners. In a for-profit prison system, there is an obvious risk of prison operators cutting corners to boost profits at the expense of inmate care. 

In fact, the United States is only one of a handful of countries that actually makes use of for-profit prisons. Some critics even go as far as to suggest that for-profit prisons have little incentive to rehabilitate prisoners as it would harm their business model.

Some policies in the US prison system are also being eliminated in other countries. For example, Canada has moved to eliminate solitary confinement in its prison system while the practice is still widely used in the United States. While solitary confinement isn’t physical torture like what can be found in the worst prison systems in the world, it can have long-term, negative mental health outcomes for prisoners even after they are out of prison.

Women in prison

Much like with the male prisoner population, when looking at female incarceration by country, the United States leads the world for number of women in prison with more than 200,000 women currently serving time. Once again, this only adds fuel to the fire when comparing US prison population vs the world. For context, China sits in second place with just over 100,000 women in prison despite their much larger population.

The consequences of putting women behind bars can be felt throughout the entire family. Since women are most often the main caregiver, their incarceration can lead to very negative outcomes for their children. Kids with parents in prison face a number of challenges including economic hardship, expulsion from school, psychological changes, and even turn to criminal behavior of their own. If the father is unable or unwilling to parent alone, the children can end up in the foster care system, which also increases the risk of criminal behavior and mental health issues.

Once women are released from prison, they may face challenges with finding secure employment and stable housing which makes raising children a challenge. Those that do not have children may still have to battle homelessness, poverty, and hunger. By imprisoning women at such a high rate, the United States may unintentionally be driving future generations toward a life of crime as well which only further worsens the already staggering incarceration rate in the country.

FAQs about U.S. prisons

Which country has the highest incarceration rate in the world?

The United States leads this category by a fairly wide margin. The incarceration rate in the United States is 737 inmates per 100,000 people. This exceeds countries like China, Russia, and Mexico which all have a dubious history with human rights. Despite only having about 5% of the world’s population, the United States is home to almost 25% of all prisoners in the world. Countries like China and India with much higher populations have both a lower incarceration rate and total prison population than the United States.

How does the prison population in America compare to other nations?

The United States far outpaces other countries for total prison population with over 2.1 million jail inmates. China is second on this list with just over 1.5 million people in prison. 

Russia is home to about 870,000 prisoners, Brazil has more than 370,000 prisoners, and India rounds out the top 5 with a little more than 330,000 prisoners. Despite some countries like China and Russia going so far as to imprison gay rights advocates and political dissidents, they still do not match the prisoner totals seen in the United States.

How many prisons are in the United States?

The United States prison system is made up of federal, state, and local facilities. Within that, there are women’s facilities, men’s facilities, and juvenile facilities that may all be subject to different reporting standards and timelines. 

According to recent information, there are 6,125 prisons in the United States including federal prisons, state prisons, local jails, juvenile correctional facilities, and Indian Country jails. This number does not include other facilities that may be relevant, including military prisons or immigration detention facilities.

How much does the United States spend on prisons each year?

It is widely estimated that the United States spends a total of $80 billion per year on public and private prisons. These numbers are a combination of federal, state, and local spending on prisons within their own jurisdictions. That figure has also been quoted by politicians including Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama. Some facilities may not be reflected in this number. 

For example, immigration detention facilities would not fall under a federal prison budget and would, instead, be part of the homeland security budget. Military prisons and prisons like Guantanamo Bay would also not appear in these figures, as they would be a part of the military budget. 

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