Employment is one of the biggest barriers to staying out of prison. But having a felony conviction on your record certainly doesn’t make it very easy to find a job. A bill headed to Governor John Kasich’s desk, and one he is expected to sign, is set to make it a little easier for those coming out of prison and looking for work.
The bill passed the Ohio House unanimously this week. It will end the practice of barring those with a felony conviction from having a commercial driver’s license or other occupational licenses. Kasich is expected to sign the bill.
According to the Dayton Daily News:
“Who here doesn’t need to be redeemed? We are giving people a second chance. This whole felony thing where we just locked them up and when you get out, you pay the penalty, you come out of some place, you’re excited to go get a job and they slam the door in your face. Twenty-five years we’ve waited for this, haven’t we senator? Twenty-five years and we did it together. And now somebody can get a job,” Kasich said in an unusual floor speech to state senators.
“It is a great piece of legislation. It will help change and save the lives of a whole lot of Ohioans — not just the 2 million that have been convicted of misdemeanors or felonies — but a lot of families,” said Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Communities will be safer because people will have more chances at landing jobs instead of returning to crime, he said.
In addition to helping felons become productive members of society, the bill will also change the ways that people can lose and regain their driving privileges. It will reduce the penalties for driving on a suspended license, if the license was suspended for non-traffic offenses (like being behind on child support). It will also allow the court to grant some driving privileges if they were lost under similar circumstances.
The Dayton Daily News reports that 25% of the 2.6 million suspended Ohio licenses have been suspended for a non-traffic related offense.
The biggest news on this bill, however, is the part that assists felons in gaining employment. When you have to admit a conviction on a job application, it can be humbling to say the least. And although there are laws about how employers can use this information, felons do have a much harder time finding a job. The legislation will simply open up more options for them.
When a felony has a legitimate source of income, they are far less likely to commit further crimes. But, when they can’t pay their bills or feed their family, they – like most other people—may be forced to do what’s necessary to put food on the table. This bill is a step in the right direction to treating felons like the humans they are.
If you are facing felony charges, you might be scared about the potential for prison time and fines. But those aren’t the only consequences you face. Whether the offense is something like assault or drug distribution, the effects can last a lifetime.
Contact our offices today to see how we might be able to help you avoid a conviction.