On December 1, 2021, a new online portal launched in Columbus, Ohio. This portal will help assist ex-offenders in sealing their criminal records to aid in their employment searches. The new program is much more accessible for ex-offenders, and the process of sealing a criminal record is much easier and faster. Columbus introduced the new website in hopes of getting residents that may have been prevented by their criminal history to have more employment and housing opportunities in their city.
What Is This New Portal?
Columbus utilizes a portal called the "Opportunity Port" for ex-offenders to access and request a seal of their record. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the platform for these requests was funded by a $500,000 grant from the Alliance for the American Dream, which is a "competitive grant program" founded by Schmidt Futures.
The portal provides applicants with legal experts to help guide them through this process. The portal could potentially help hundreds of thousands of people in this district. Councilmember Shayla Favor stated in a press conference that "the stigma of a criminal record can be a significant and long-lasting barrier to obtaining basic necessities and safe and affordable housing," continuingly stating that "the program could help lift up more Columbus residents, especially people of color, into the middle class and help Columbus rebuild our skilled workforce and create real pathways out of poverty.”
In an article from the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law professor Doug Berman said "Twenty-five percent of all jobs are out of reach legally, formally, for those with a criminal conviction. We're hurting community development in ways that go outside individual harms."
What Is This New Process?
The new process is less rigorous than the current process of sealing a court record. The current process can be costly and involves setting up an in-person meeting with an attorney, filling out paperwork, reviewing the application for eligibility and mistakes, forwarding it to prosecutors for review, and finally going before a judge for a final decision. This portal will make it much easier for ex-offenders to seal their records at no cost.
1.) Creating a profile
- This involves filling out personal information and taking a survey.
2.) Connecting with an attorney
- Once the survey is complete, "Opportunity Port" legal partners will help offenders complete a formal record sealing application.
3.) Attending a hiring
- If the offender's application is eligible for a record seal, it will be reviewed by a judge.
4.) Sealing the record
- If the judge approves the application, the court will remove offenses from public view.
Convictions Not Eligible To Be Sealed
Under Ohio law, convictions that are not eligible to be sealed include:
- First-or- second-degree felonies.
- Sex offenses.
- Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OVI).
- Crimes of violence.
- Crimes involving child victims.
Other State's Criminal Record Sealing Programs
Minnesota has launched a similar statewide program, where low-level offenders can access an online portal and fill out an application to have their records sealed at no cost.
Automatic cleaning of records is another law that automatically clears a person's criminal record depending on the charges. This process eliminates the need to petition and is often free of charge. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 20 states have at least one statutory automatic record clearing provision. However, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Utah have enacted legislation that automates the automatic record clearing process, also known as "clean slate laws."
Offenders having access to these programs is growing throughout states and is considered a part of the effort in giving offenders second chances and opportunities to succeed.
How These Portals Can Be Helpful For Recruiters
It is important for recruiters to understand these options are available to their candidates. Recruiters can share with staffing agencies or directly to the applicants how to utilize these portals and, depending on a person's situation, alter their standing when it comes to a job offer. Programs that offer the sealing of a criminal record can help an applicant with minor charges capitalize on certain opportunities, so recruiters sharing tools like this can help their candidates and agencies.
How Orange Tree Can Help
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