Rather than run through the problems with this legislation myself, here's some information from a fact sheet on the subject prepared by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition that gives the main reasons why this is a bad idea, a purely symbolic gesture that amounts to what Bruce Schneier calls "security theater," except in this case with unintended consequences that might actually make the public less safe:
NO ON HB 1367 (MADDEN)
CRIMINAL CHECKS ON ALL STUDENTS MAY INCREASE CRIME AND REDUCE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
HB 1367 expands the use of criminal background checks at universities (private or public) to ALL students, new and already admitted. Our state universities could run criminal histories on all future and currently enrolled students and expel existing students or deny admission to new students based on the results.
Will not make Texas safer
This bill is intended to increase campus security, but a broad review of all criminal histories will not give administrators the window they need into future criminality of each individual they identify as having committed a crime in the past. Instead, it is likely to result in sweeping rules to exclude or expel large classes of people with criminal records, reducing their access to education and increasing the likelihood that they will commit crimes again.
Higher education is highly correlated with reduced recidivism--even when the college degree is earned in prison. TDCJ studied the effect of higher education (August, 2000) using eight years of post-release data for 883 offenders who received college degrees while incarcerated between 1986 and 1992. Compared to a system-wide recidivism rate of 43%, prisoners who completed an Associate's Degree recidivated at the rate of 27.2% and those who completed a Baccalaureate Degree recidivated at the rate of only 7.8% (which means virtually none of them commit new crimes). Other studies find recidivism to be even lower.
This means that university enrolled students with prior criminal records are highly likely to have completely changed their lives--presenting little security risk as they do so. But University administrators will not have enough information to make nuanced determinations, and will instead need to make decisions for the whole mass of students based on simple, bright lines. The easiest path would be for universities to exclude or expel all students with prior criminal histories, making these students more likely to commit new crimes and making Texas less safe for all of us.
Education is directly correlated to reduced crime rates
Studies show reductions in the crime rate for every incremental increase in education levels. There is a clear decline in incarceration and crime rates with education beyond 8th grade. According to a Hoover Institution researcher, "High school graduation reduces the probability of imprisonment by about 0.8 percentage points for whites and 3.4 percentage points for blacks. A 10 percentage point increase in graduation rates lowers murder and assault arrest rates by about 20%, motor vehicle theft by about 13%, and arson by 8%." For communities to which formerly incarcerated people return, increased higher education in this population can bring increased civic participation, increased economic strength and much more.
Discourages personal responsibility
Current students with a past criminal record--those who have turned their lives around and pursued higher education--could be kicked out of school and left with even fewer options to live responsibly. Currently, a simple arrest may mean the loss of a job, housing, public benefits, and even custody of one's own children. This bill adds educational attainment to this list. When people have no hope for a better future, they are more likely to return to crime.