Written By Digital Content Editor Thomas Ahearn
Early on December 15, 2022, the Ohio House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 288 which includes “changes that would make it easier to expunge criminal records” to “reduce the burden on previously incarcerated Ohioans and reduce the likelihood that they return to prison, according to a report from The Columbus Dispatch.
The “sweeping criminal justice reform bill” – which already passed in the Ohio Senate and now heads to the desk of Governor Mike DeWine who can sign it into law – “would create an easier path to seal and expunge criminal records, which can hurt Ohioans’ chances of landing jobs and housing,” The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Ex-offenders could apply to have their records sealed after one year for most misdemeanors and fourth- or fifth-degree felonies and after three years for third-degree felonies. They could apply to have their records expunged or cleared from their criminal records after one year for misdemeanors and 10 years after felonies.
However, Senate Bill 288 does not allow crimes such as violent felonies and domestic violence to be sealed or expunged, the police could still see the criminal records of applicants stored in the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), and judges could still deny requests from ex-offenders, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
In October 2022, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) – the research, evaluation, and development agency of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) – published an article titled “Expungement: Criminal Records as Reentry Barriers” that shows how expungement of a criminal record “can help open the door to a second chance at life.”
The article touched on two studies funded by the NIJ on reentry and recidivism to better understand the impacts of these barriers: 1) an ongoing evaluation of expungement and its effects on recidivism, housing, and employment, and 2) a completed study on the permanency and accuracy of criminal records in the digital age.
The preliminary results of the ongoing evaluation “suggest a significant advantage for people who receive formal legal help in pursuing expungement” as 90 percent of subjects assigned legal representation cleared their criminal records while only 13 percent of subjects in the self-help group cleared their criminal records.
The completed study “examined inconsistencies in criminal record content and private sector use of those records.” Researchers found that “public records often show cases that are old, outdated, or misleading” and that “data brokers who commoditize information from the public record are largely unregulated.”
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