Update on Ohio Senate Bill 197


Update on Ohio Senate Bill 197
Which Seeks to Expunge Felony

You might recall a couple recent discussions where I respectfully disagreed with Ohio State Senator Shirley Smith‘s proposed legislation that would allow some serious felonies convictions to be expunged from individual’s records. This was Senator Smith’s way of addressing the issue of those with convictions being excluded from jobs and the increase in recidivism rates when employment cannot be found.

That is a serious issue and one that deserves proper consideration. However, as I said before, inhibiting potential employers’ ability to make an informed decision is no way to address this problem. If such a measure was adopted, an employer that conducts background checks wouldn’t see the expunged conviction.

I was scheduled to meet with Ohio State Senator Lance Mason last week to discuss our concerns about this bill last week and I was looking forward to blogging about some of the ideas I had already discussed with his staffers. Unfortunately, Senator Mason had to cancel the meeting (it was for a very good personal reason). We are going to reschedule, but rather than wait for the meeting, I thought it would be nice to share one of Senator Mason’s remedies to this problem as relayed through his staffers.

Senator Mason believes that one such way to remedy the issue of re-entry into the workforce is to introduce tax credits to those that hire former convicts. I happen to believe that this idea has merit and am impressed with his ability to introduce a solution that serves all interests. I don’t know how it would be paid for, but in concept it doesn’t punish employers by keeping them in the dark about the people it hires and creates a way to get those who wish to enter the workforce after a criminal conviction to do so without having to lie on job applications or be fearful that past transgressions will automatically eliminate them from all employment opportunities.

This effort by Senator Smith is one we commonly see duplicated throughout the country. And in most cases, the intention is to make sure former convicts have a fair chance at assimilating back into their communities and can become productive memebers of society. These are honorable intentions. However, the ideas that Senator Mason has seem to strike a delicate balance of serving all parties involved.