Fair, intelligent, redemptive: Collaborative policy reform is part of OJPC’s advocacy for criminal justice reform.
We work closely with legislators, judges, and executive-branch officials at the state and local level all across Ohio, to rethink and retool all aspects of criminal justice systems. We also partner with numerous grassroots groups statewide to develop and promote fair, intelligent, and redemptive reform. Below are areas where OJPC has particular policy expertise and where there are timely opportunities for change now.
OJPC’s current #1 strategy is to “safely and substantially reduce the size and racial disparity of the state prison population.” Ohio currently incarcerates almost 51,000 men and women in 32 prisons designed, collectively, to hold about 38,000 people. The only way to significantly reduce this dangerous overcrowding is through sentencing reform that lowers the number of people sent to prison each year, and shortens the average length of stay. OJPC is helping Ohio policymakers find ways to do that, while preserving public safety.
Many survivors of human trafficking are unable to truly reintegrate into society because of their arrest and conviction records. Expungement allows survivors to reclaim their lives and leave the past behind them.
Six years ago, the Ohio legislature took a huge step to allow justice for survivors of human trafficking through the Safe Harbor Act. However, there’s still work to be done.
While the Safe Harbor Act was a step in the right direction, its expungement provision was too ambiguous. Some courts interpret the Safe Harbor Act in a way that only allows survivors to expunge three prostitution-based crimes. In reality, survivors are often forced to participate in a broad range of illegal activity — from drug offenses to theft — for traffickers’ financial gain. This can result in hundreds of convictions.
In June 2018, the Ohio Legislature passed a bill that will clarify the options for survivors of human trafficking to expunge and seal records, even crimes that are not prostitution-related. Now, survivors will be able to avoid some of the barriers created by criminal records full of convictions. They’ll be able to find meaningful employment, suitable housing and opportunities for furthering education.
OJPC is part of a strong coalition of groups working to eliminate capital-punishment eligibility for people with serious mental illness: The Ohio Alliance for the Mental Illness Exemption. We are excited to report that Sen. Bill Seitz (R, Cincinnati) and Sen. Sandra Williams (D, Cleveland) have introduced a bill to make this a reality, Senate Bill 162, now pending before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
OJPC has been a statewide leader in crafting and promoting Fair Hiring (a.k.a. “ban the box”) policies since 2010, when we successfully made Cincinnati the first Fair Hiring city in Ohio. Since then, we have supported advocates and advised policymakers in 13 other Ohio cities who have adopted some version of these government-employment reforms that we drafted.