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New group aims to help Ohioans who have past criminal convictions on their record

Ohio Supreme Court Gavel statue
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Ohio Supreme Court Gavel statue.

A group that advocates on behalf of Ohioans who have criminal records is launching a new program in Cleveland.

The Alliance for Safety and Justice's new program "TimeDone" will provide information to Ohioans held back by a past record to help them build economic stability for their families and communities.

The program also brings together Ohioans in communities most harmed by violent crime to advocate for “common sense” public safety policies that help break cycles of crime, victimization and post-incarceration poverty.

Jay Jordan, CEO for the Alliance for Safety and Justice, said one out of six Ohioans has some sort of criminal conviction on their record. He said, for many of them, that history haunts them the rest of their lives.

“Even if you do your time, even long after you pay all of your fines and fees, you complete probation or parole, these things last forever," Jordan said.

Jordan said 65% of people with criminal records around the country are jobless. He said they often are discriminated against when it comes to getting housing or a home loan. It also affects how they can interact with their community, he said.

"If you have a criminal record in Ohio, you can't coach little league. You can't join the H.O.A. You can't join the P.T.A. You can't chaperone your kids' field trip. And so these restrictions are not only harming the individual but affecting families and children as well," Jordan said.

The new program will also help individuals learn how to advocate for themselves, he said.

His group is pushing to pass two different bills under consideration by the Ohio Legislature. One (SB288) offers judges to have more discretion in cases and allows more offenses to qualify to be sealed. In addition, it will force juvenile courts to expunge all records by a person's 23rd birthday.

The other bill, (HB699), would accomplish many of the same goals. Jordan said giving people with criminal records a pathway to live successful lives is important for a society that believes people can change for the better.

“Do we believe that someone can be rehabilitated and change their life? And if the answer is ‘yes,’ then it means that we have to have comprehensive and common sense changes to our expungement and record sealing laws to allow that to actually become a reality," Jordan said.

The group will continue to push for two other that would revise criminal laws in Ohio so people who are convicted and rehabilitated won’t face discrimination later and might even be able to get their records cleared.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.