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SB 66: Put rehabilitation, not punishment, at the center of criminal justice

The Ohio Justice & Policy Center is overjoyed with the passage of SB 66 in the Ohio House Wednesday. This bill is a wonderful, multi-faceted criminal justice bill that aims to put focus on rehabilitation and restorative justice rather than punitive punishment.

OJPC advocated for this bill and spent hours discussing with lawmakers the real-world implications of this bill. OJPC is particularly excited because this bill will allow people with more than two criminal offenses to apply for record sealing.

Right now, any Ohioan with more than two offenses is ineligible for record sealing. While there are still rules regarding the length of time before a record can be sealed, now an Ohioan with up to five felony convictions on his or her record could apply for record sealing (as long as none of the offenses are sexual, violent, or F1, F2 or F3 felonies).

Dorianne Mason, OJPC’s Second Chance Director, at a legal clinic.

“Now we can help hundreds of people that we would have had to turn away in the past,” said OJPC Deputy Director Sasha Naiman. “If you weren’t qualified for record sealing in the past, there’s a good chance you’ll be eligible now.”

OJPC helps people all over the state navigate life after incarceration through the Second Chance Project and the Second Chance Legal Clinics. To learn more about the project and clinics, click here.

Other aspects of the bill will also foster a rehabilitation-focused approach to criminal justice in Ohio. The bill instructs judges to consider rehabilitation in felony sentencing. For example, would a year in a prison actually rehabilitate a person convicted of a low-level, non-violent drug offense — or would drug treatment be more effective?

The bill also expands the use of community-based corrections facilities, like local treatment centers and local jails. Rather than sending someone across the state to serve time in a state prison — away from family and a support system — a person can remain close to home.

The use of placing someone on community control — or probation — after incarceration will be fewer and farther between in Ohio under SB 66. For some people, community control is unnecessary and becomes a serious burden. In another measure to increase flexibility (in the name of rehabilitation), penalties will be less severe for people who violate the terms of their probation.

Also under SB 66, more people will be able undergo treatment or programming in lieu of a conviction. Upon successful completion of said programming, the charges would be dropped.

OJPC advocated for SB 66 and testified at the statehouse on behalf of the bill. Just days ago, OJPC celebrated another legislative victory with the passage of SB 4, a bill that will greatly benefit survivors of human trafficking. Sasha Naiman took the lead in advocating for SB 4 over the past three years.

Now, the bill heads to the governor’s desk. Once Gov. Kasich signs the bill into law, OJPC can begin to help hundreds of new people get a fresh start and second chance after incarceration.