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Change in law would allow former prisoners to work, pay support

Making re-entry into the workforce for ex-offenders easier and once again becoming productive citizens is the reason for a new Ohio house bill. Often, nonviolent ex-offenders find it difficult to find and hold a job because of their criminal convictions. In addition, the loss of their driver's license is a huge obstacle. This bill would make the re-employment process easier for those who have paid their debt to society and want to become productive citizens again, including paying their child support.

The bi-partisan legislation would provide a better way for released inmates to overcome job-related obstacles called collateral sanctions. Without it, lawmakers say the fallout from not providing a second chance to people will simply keep them on social programs, or even push them back into jail. The ultimate goal of the bill is to allow released prisoners to become tax-paying workers once again and live up to their responsibilities.

According to the proposed bill, ex-offenders could petition the state's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to ask for help from the courts in getting a job. Assistance would come in the area of sealing and/or destroying their criminal records. Government leaders and advocacy groups agree, there is no benefit to banish ex-criminals from the work force.

According to state records, approximately 1.9 million Ohioans have a felony or misdemeanor record. Without a job, those folks cannot provide for their families. If they do not pay child support, their driver's licenses are revoked, thereby making it more difficult to find or keep a job. It's a vicious cycle.

If and when former inmates find long-term employment, they can also make child support payments a bit more manageable by seeking a child support payment modification through post-decree litigation.

Source: Ohio.com, "State proposal would ease barriers so ex-offenders can join work force," Rick Armon, April 28, 2012

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