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Legislation would allow some criminal records to be sealed

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(The Center Square) – Two Ohio Republican lawmakers want to make it easier for criminals to have records sealed to help the state’s workforce participation.

Sponsors say the plan – Getting Rehabilitated Ohioans Working or Grow Act – could also reduce revictimization and create an environment of safer and healthier communities and families.

“We have a responsibility to hold Ohioans accountable for their actions, but to also offer them the resources and support for redemption and a second chance at success,” said Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville. “The Grow Act offers rehabilitated Ohioans a second chance to flourish right here in Ohio.”

The legislation would set triggers for sealed records after successful rehabilitation and a period of crime-free behavior. Prosecutors would have input on record sealing.

Proponents say sealing a record creates employment opportunities for criminals and protects employers from being penalized for hiring rehabilitated individuals.

The proposal received praise from Conservative Political Action Conference, The Buckeye Institute and the TAP Foundation.

“The Ohio Grow Act is a great chance for legislators in Columbus to continue leading on strong, conservative policies that will get Ohioans back to work,” said David Safavian, CPAC senior vice president and general counsel. “We know that an old criminal record is an anchor around the necks of those who have moved on from a life of crime, denying them (and their families) opportunities for meaningful work, safe housing, and financial security. We also know that if someone has gone five years without reoffending, they are highly unlikely to be involved with crime again.”

The Buckeye Institute, a Columbus-based policy group, has pushed for several years for pathways to make it easier for convicts to return to the state’s workforce.

“The Buckeye Institute has long advocated sensible and smart criminal justice policies in Ohio that balance public safety with offering second chances to those who have paid their debts to society,” said Robert Alt, president and CEO of The Buckeye Institute. “The Grow Act is another critical step forward that makes it easier for rehabilitated Ohioans to reclaim their dignity and – most importantl – get back to work, which is the best inoculation against recidivism. Given Ohio’s large number of open jobs, this reform will also help improve Ohio’s overall economy, too.”

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