SB 3 would remove hundreds of barriers for people convicted of minor drug possession
Posted January 15, 2020 in Press Releases
New analysis by Policy Matters Ohio shows Senate Bill 3 would help people with minor drug possession convictions by removing 268 legal barriers – known as collateral sanctions – to jobs and professional licensing.
Last year, Senators John Eklund (R-Munson Township) and Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) introduced SB 3, which would reclassify minor drug possession from fourth- and fifth-degree felonies to misdemeanors. The bill remains in the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 3 would reduce Ohio’s prison population, which has soared to over 50,000 people, while directing more people with substance use disorder to treatment.
SB 3 would offer new possibilities for people convicted of minor drug possession to get their lives back on track. Collateral sanctions limit opportunities for Ohioans with convictions even years after they’ve paid their debt. Many of those restrictions are triggered by felonies but not misdemeanors. The Ohio Justice and Policy Center maintains a comprehensive database of Ohio collateral sanctions. Many are related to employment but they can touch all aspects of life. For example, someone with a felony conviction for minor marijuana possession could be barred from working at a daycare or as a home health care aid and even from serving as a volunteer firefighter or on a jury. They could not live in the same house as someone trying to adopt or take in a foster child.
“By removing the felony stigma, Senate Bill 3 opens up hundreds of possibilities for people with minor drug possession convictions,” said Policy Matters Researcher Michael Shields. “Policymakers could improve the lives of thousands of Ohioans by passing this bill.”
Shields says lawmakers should amend SB 3 so it applies retroactively. By doing so, they would open up opportunities for people harmed by “tough on crime” laws of the 1980s and ‘90s.
Policy Matters Ohio has identified “Five Rs” of successful criminal justice reform.
- Reclassification of minor drug possessions from felonies to misdemeanors;
- Retroactive application of that reclassification to ensure communities over-targeted by past drug prosecution are included in the benefits of reform;
- Reform of the probation-to-prison pipeline, reserving reincarceration only for those who commit new crimes;
- Reduction of sentences for incarcerated Ohioans who earn credit by participating in education, behavioral programming or work activities while in prison; and
- Reemployment for those who’ve served their time, by eliminating or reducing barriers to work known as collateral sanctions.