The feared question that trips up one in six Ohioans — “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” — will soon disappear from state job applications.
Gov. John Kasich’s administration is working with private organizations to help knock down barriers created for past offenders by 800 sanctions attached to scores of laws. The state still will conduct criminal-background checks on job applicants, but only after initial screening based on qualifications.
The consequences of “collateral sanctions” are widespread: 1.9 million Ohioans have a crime on their record that is a barrier to employment after they’ve served their sentence.
Jose Torres and Jason Smoot, two Columbus men with records, hit that wall. Hard.
Torres, 35, a native of Colombia, can’t get a good job even though he has a degree in economics and extensive experience in the restaurant business and as a language interpreter. Smoot, 24, is blocked from getting a job even with his family’s business, Smoot Construction.
“You can’t get your license, you can’t get a job, you can’t get a place to live,” Smoot said. “I’m basically put in the system to fail.”
For example, someone with a criminal record generally can’t be a teacher, get a barber or cosmetology license, become a plumber, work in a casino or be a security guard at a cemetery. Often, they can’t even drive to a job interview because their license is suspended.
Although the state won’t eliminate the criminal-record check box on state employment forms, applicants will be given a chance to get a foot in the door, Mohr said. Further, state officials have discussed the change with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which will monitor state hiring to see if removing sanctions could translate to the private sector.
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