A recent change to Ohio law makes it possible to seal and expunge significantly more criminal records, which in turn opens many more doors toward housing, employment and education for individuals with past convictions. One local man had more than 30 records that were eligible to be sealed because of the new law.
And thanks to Cincinnati Works and the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, all of those records may soon be sealed.
OJPC has hosted a series of “second chance” clinics to help individuals with records understand their options, including a weeklong event in partnership with Cincinnati Works. More than 40 people met with volunteer lawyers or OJPC staff during the week, some of them virtually, some in-person at the Cincinnati Works office – including the individual with more than 30 misdemeanor and felony charges that were impacted by the law change.
“What stood out to me was how many people were eligible for things that would not have been eligible before the passing of the new law in April,” said Alyssa Beck, Second Chance Paralegal at OJPC and legal coordinator for Cincinnati Works.
The intent of the law – Ohio House Bill 1 – was to make it easier for individuals to find stable employment and housing after a conviction, part of a growing recognition that those individuals can be productive members of society if given the chance. OJPC launched its virtual legal clinics to help more local individuals begin the process of sealing or expunging records.
By partnering with Cincinnati Works, OJPC staff and volunteer lawyers were available for phone consultations over six days in late-July, capped by a day of in-person consultations at the Cincinnati Works office. More than 40 people participated, including 21 who attended the in-person session on a Saturday afternoon.
“OJPC staff rocked it,” said Lisa Mauthe, Director of Financial Wellness at Cincinnati Works. “It’s a pleasure to work with such dedicated, inspiring, and passionate people. I hope we can do another in-person clinic again.”
Beck said the in-person clinic went so well that OJPC’s volunteer coordinator left early. “She said of every clinic she attended this was the most well-run and only time she felt she wasn’t needed,” Beck said.