Dec 1, 2021 - News

New program helps residents seal criminal records

Illustration of a pattern of gavels.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The process for sealing criminal records is becoming easier for Columbus residents with new online resources in place.

Why it matters: Sealing records can go a long way toward allowing those with criminal backgrounds to find jobs, housing and other opportunities.

Context: Ohio already allows for certain lower-level criminal records to be sealed, and a new state law enacted this year expanded eligibility even further.

Yes, but: Only a small percentage of Ohioans have sought out this program in recent years.

  • Fewer than 4,000 applications to seal records were submitted to the Franklin County Municipal Court in 2019 and 2020, per data from the court clerk's office.
  • Researchers at Ohio State University estimate more than 300,000 people may qualify for this service, a news release from the city of Columbus states.

What's happening: The city is partnering with Opportunity Port, a tech initiative to connect residents with legal experts to make the sealing process smoother.

  • Applicants will complete an online survey and receive help from the Franklin County Municipal Court Self Help Resource Center, the Legal Aid Society of Columbus or Equality Ohio.

What they're saying: Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Eileen Paley says the project will be "another link to help people get a second chance."

  • "Most people don't understand how a record, even a misdemeanor record, can affect their lives. Records follow you wherever you go."

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