For far too long we have used the criminal justice system to attack social and health problems such as poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, and an overall lack of opportunity. The result is that Ohio has one of the largest prison populations in the country.
African Americans are disproportionately affected – accounting for nearly half the state's prison population but only a little more than a tenth of the total state population.
The reality is, nearly everyone who goes to prison comes home. Moreover, many more people are convicted and serve no time in prison – instead receiving alternative forms of punishment. Still these individuals are labeled and locked out of opportunities through collateral sanctions and institutional barriers that prevent them from getting a job, housing, education, reliable transportation, and more. The magnitude of these barriers can have major psychological impact.
Locked Out of Employment
There are hundreds of professional trades that bar licensure for individuals with felony convictions. Even when no legal sanction exists, having a minor record can cause individuals to be stuck in perpetual poverty and employment instability. After all, nearly 90% of employers use background checks in hiring. Individuals with criminal records are 50% to 63% less likely to get a callback or job offer than an identical applicant without a record. This penalty increases two-fold for Black as opposed to White applicants.
Locked Out of Housing
Housing is among the most critical needs for all human beings. Our ability to find meaningful employment, engage in educational opportunities and live fulfilling and productive lives starts with having a safe place to call home. For those recently released from prison, this basic need can often be the most difficult to obtain. After all, an estimated 4 in 5 property owners use background checks on prospective tenants. This level of screening leaves many returning citizens and their families locked out of housing opportunities. While minor protections exist within public housing authorities, no such protections exist within the private housing market.
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