Ohio felon ‘redemption’ bill nearly a law

Offenders would find it easier to re-enter society.

The Ohio House on Wednesday unanimously approved the bill that would reduce the number of post-prison and post-conviction sanctions offenders face, such as being barred from holding a commercial driver’s license or other occupational licenses.

Kasich said the legislation offers redemption.

“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.

“If somebody has a job when they get out of prison, they’re much less likely to re-offend. So this is both a public safety and economic bill,” said Amy Borror, spokeswoman for Ohio Public Defender Tim Young. Young, however, opposed some changes made to the release of juvenile records.

The bill also calls for revamping the ways and reasons for which a driver can lose and then regain driving privileges. Currently, Ohio has 46 categories of license suspensions and in 2009, the state had more than 2.6 million suspensions among 7.3 million licensed drivers. A Dayton Daily News analysis found about 25 percent of the suspensions were for reasons other than a driving infraction, such as non-payment of child support. The bill calls for reducing the penalties for driving under suspension if it was imposed for a non-traffic offense, allowing courts to impose community service in lieu of license suspension, allowing courts to grant some driving privileges to those who lost them because they are behind in child support payments and allowing the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to let people pay reinstatement fees in installments.

The bill also calls on the Ohio Department of Public Safety to study the feasibility of a one-time amnesty program for the payment of fines related to traffic offenses and license suspensions.

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