Issue 1 will help thousands of Ohioans re-enter workforce
Posted October 09, 2018 in Press Releases
Each year, barriers that keep people with criminal convictions from getting certain jobs contribute to $3.4 billion in foregone wages, according to new analysis from Policy Matters Ohio.
From getting a fishing license to running Bingo games, Ohio has more than 1,000 laws that limit what people previously convicted of a crime can do: some 850 relate specifically to jobs and entrepreneurship. These roadblocks range from a background check to an outright prohibition against working in a certain job. One in four jobs in Ohio contain these hurdles, known as collateral sanctions for punishing people long after they served their time. On average, they pay 10 percent -- $4,700 -- more, according to Policy Matters Ohio.
Issue 1 reclassifies minor drug possession felonies as misdemeanors. The report finds 524 are triggered by a drug conviction, and 296 of them apply to felonies only. Issue 1 removes those barriers to work for Ohioans with a drug conviction and no more serious crime.
“Issue 1 opens up more jobs to people by reducing nonviolent drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors,” Policy Matters Researcher Michael Shields said. “When people can earn a living, their chances of committing another crime drops. That makes our communities safer.”
If Issue 1 passes, people convicted of nonviolent, low-level drug possession, or those who commit non-criminal probation violations, will be redirected to community sanctions or treatment instead of prison. People in prison will be able to earn sentence reductions by participating in education and rehabilitation programs. The money saved by reducing the prison population will be redirected to communities to fund victims’ services, rehabilitation and safety programs.
Ohio law limits access to public sector jobs, health care, driving jobs, and more. Because many are in one of Ohio’s strongest industries – health care – jobs with these barriers are among the state’s fastest growing. By 2024, they are projected to grow by 11 percent versus 5.4 percent.
Ohio’s growing drug crisis affects people across the state. Women are a growing share of the state’s prison population – nearly 39 percent are there for drug offenses, compared to 25 percent of men. African Americans are six times more likely to be convicted of a drug offense, even though they use drugs at similar rates of white people.
“Ohio has one of the worst drug epidemics in the nation,” Shields said. “If Issue 1 doesn’t pass, more people will find themselves locked out of the job market. That’s not good for anyone.”