Ohio Rep. John Rogers, D-Mentor-on-the-Lake has introduced a bill that he says will “streamline Ohio’s criminal record sealing procedure, while expanding eligibility to more Ohioans.”
According to data from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, approximately 2 million Ohioans, or 17 percent of the state, have a felony or misdemeanor conviction.
The criminal record sealing process is a legal tool available to Ohioans with certain criminal records. Rogers said it is meant to help with the elimination of barriers to employment, housing and other facets of everyday life, “for certain individuals who have satisfactorily completed their criminal sanctions imposed by a court.”
Rogers’ bill modifies what conviction records might be sealed, the timeframe for when a post-conviction petition to seal a record can occur and the procedural steps courts and prosecuting attorneys would follow when processing or responding to record sealing applications.
“Navigating the convoluted steps associated with the current record sealing statute can be daunting for attorneys, let alone those individuals who have complied with and completed all orders imposed by a court,” Rogers said in a statement. “Today’s statutes unfortunately prevent many individuals from being able to move forward with their lives and thrive as productive citizens here in Ohio.
“What we should be striving for are existing laws that reduce barriers for those wanting to turn their life around, as opposed to laws that make the process a stumbling block if not incomprehensible for many.”
Rogers said the legislation was crafted in response to testimony given by the Ohio Public Defender’s Office before the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee illustrating the inherent and significant difficulties encountered when navigating the current record sealing statute.
Ohio Public Defender Tim Young said in a statement he supports the proposed legislation.
“Representative Rogers’ bill offers true, thoughtful and meaningful reform to Ohio’s complicated sealing statute,” Young said in his statement. “Far too often when someone has completely paid his or her debt to society, we continue to deny them jobs and housing for years and even decades.”
Young said that today’s technology means punishment “now lasts forever, for even petty crimes.”
“This results in a denial of any real chance to redeem oneself, to ever get a good job, or live in a safe community,” he said. “This comprehensive legislation will ensure that more Ohioans have the opportunity to have their criminal convictions sealed. Ohio is not made better or safer by making it impossible for capable people to obtain adequate housing and gainful employment after they have paid their debt to society.”
Young said that the bill will provide relief to thousands by making it easier for them to find employment, which will benefit Ohio’s economy overall. The bill awaits referral to an Ohio House Committee for consideration.