Commentary

10.27.15

A Fresh Start to Save Thousands of Ohioans’ Futures

By

Marijuana, handcuffs, fingerprint sheet

A criminal conviction damages a person’s present life and future prospects. From employment to housing, higher education enrollment and student loans, a criminal conviction creates so many barriers to opportunities. Given those startling facts, we can agree that a state prison system operating at 130 percent capacity is unhealthy for those incarcerated and for the state that put them there.

Incarceration for What’s Legal

If Ohio voters believe people deserve second chances, and want to shrink the state’s prison population, they should vote:

  • No on State Issue 2, which would greatly impede the ability of Ohioans to put key issues on the ballot.
  • Yes on State Issue 3, which will legalize marijuana.

These votes will prevent up to 12,000 arrests yearly for marijuana possession and save our state well over $100 million in the process annually.

But, with passage of Issue 3, what about the thousands of Ohioans who have been negatively impacted due to possession charges incurred prior to legalization― is it fair to be criminalized for something no longer illegal? To be fair, compassionate and foresighted, don’t they deserve a fresh start, free of stigma?

The Fresh Start Act Can Help Thousands of Ohioans … and Ohio

It’s anticipated that Fresh Start Act will be welcomed by more than 10,000 Ohioans each year. And it could be the way our state radically reduces its prison overpopulation.

The Fresh Start Act is a statute initiative that will expunge the criminal records of people previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes once State Issue 3 has passed.

Fresh Start will:

  • Remove certain marijuana offenses, convictions and citations from a person’s record. This will apply to specifically defined offenses unless there is a greater societal need to maintain the record.
  • Allow individuals with marijuana convictions, when seeking to get records expunged, to petition courts to discharge or modify currently imposed sentences or sanctions. This could allow some individuals to get released from incarceration and others to get relief from fees or penalties.

It’s anticipated that Fresh Start Act would benefit more than 10,000 Ohioans each year. And it could be a way our state radically reduces its prison overpopulation.

The ACLU of Ohio supports the Fresh Start Act. So when you’re asked to sign a petition to support it, don’t hesitate to do so. After all, do you want people languishing in Ohio jails and prisons for doing something that may be perfectly legal in 2016? And, make sure you communicate to your state senator and representative that you strongly support Fresh Start for Ohioans!

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