Photo by Kathryn Decker through Flickr Creative Commons.

The ACLU of Ohio strongly supports reforms to help people with criminal convictions find jobs. We believe in breaking down barriers to re-entry so that individuals can lead successful lives after prison.

Currently, people with criminal records face unfair barriers to finding employment. Many job applications require applicants to disclose felony or misdemeanor convictions, and employers often immediately deny applicants who have a criminal record. By putting these formally incarcerated men and women on a lifelong blacklist from getting a job, we hinder their capabilities and push them back toward lives of crime.

As the number of Americans with criminal records continues to grow, there is a nationwide movement to “ban-the-box”, or to stop allowing employers to ask about criminal history on job applications. Ohio needs to institute “ban-the-box” job-hiring reform in order to ensure work opportunities for all.

Ohio’s Answer

The ACLU of Ohio supports House Bill 56, the Fair Hiring Act, which requires public employers to consider potential employees based on their qualifications rather than a criminal conviction. Specifically, the proposed legislation stipulates::

  • Employers can’t inquire into an applicant’s criminal background during the general application phase of the hiring process.
  • Employers can only inquire into an employee’s criminal background when they are ready to make a job offer. This ensures that applicants are getting a fair screening and are not being disqualified solely based on their criminal conviction.
  • Barring exceptions from state or federal law, an applicant cannot be automatically disqualified from employment because of a criminal conviction.
  • Employers must inform job applicants if their criminal history was the basis of denying employment.

Notably, the proposed legislation does not require any employer to hire a person with a criminal record. It merely allows applicants a chance at a fair evaluation of their skills and work abilities. The bill requires the employer to consider a variety of relevant factors, not just a criminal conviction, in hiring an employee. Like most other ban-the-box laws nationwide, HB 56 only applies to public employers.

Read our report, “Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction.”

HB 56 is an important step in providing opportunities for people with criminal convictions in Ohio. The only logical way to reduce crime and recidivism is to allow people to be responsible, wage earning members of the community. Currently, there are 50,407 people in state prisons  in Ohio—the vast majority are not serving life sentences and will eventually be released. In order for the criminal justice system to live up to its purpose, there must be a way for those thousands of people to find jobs and support themselves. Otherwise, we are releasing people back into lives of crime and giving them a one-way ticket back to prison.

With Ohio’s overcrowded prisons and strained rehabilitation resources, reforming our state’s criminal justice system is a crisis that needs immediate attention from our elected leaders at the statehouse.

Kyra Schoonover is an intern with the ACLU of Ohio.