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About one in three Ohioans have a criminal record. A criminal background can create a lifetime of barriers—called collateral sanctions—for individuals to housing, higher education, and certain careers. The Ohio Justice and Policy Center has identified about 1,100 collateral sanctions in Ohio Law. These sanctions prevent access to more than 1.3 million jobs for people with criminal records.

Ohio’s prison population has also increased from 14,000 in 1980 to 50,000 by 2018. Each year around 20,000 Ohioans come back to the community. Some returning individuals come home with job experience acquired while in prison.

For instance, state correctional facilities have created opportunities for economic advancement with GED, vocational training, and college. There is also training for CDL, food service and culinary, carpentry, machine maintenance, dog training and grooming, welding, and much more.

Studies show that obtaining employment reduces the likelihood of people returning to prison. Even with job experience, once released, inequalities persist among returning citizens. According to a report by the Prison Policy Initiative, the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is nearly five times higher than the unemployment rate for the general US population.

Hiring practices and laws, however, are starting to change, and managers are now willing to hire someone with a criminal record as revealed in a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Charles Koch Institute (CKI). In addition, in 2016, the White House created the Fair Chance Business Pledge, in which 19 companies across America agreed to give people with criminal records a second chance.

Another initiative, passed into Ohio law in 2012 and improved in 2018, is the Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE). The benefits of the CQE include the following:

  • The CQE removes the barriers to a professional license
  • The CQE assures the employer that the job seeker’s CQE petition has been thoroughly reviewed by the Common Pleas Court, judges, prosecutors, and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
  • An applicant who is granted a CQE must be given individual consideration by an employer or licensing board
  • The Certificate gives employers immunity from negligent hiring lawsuits
  • The CQE acts as a recommendation for people looking for employment

To create an application the individual must go to the Ohio Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE) online website, and complete the online registration process.

Applicants for the CQE must also identify the state-law barrier they want relief from. The tool for identifying the state-law barriers triggered by a particular offense is found at the Ohio Civil Impacts of Criminal Convictions under Ohio Law. The Civil Impacts database reveals the barrier to employment in a particular field, and the types of crimes that might block a person from enjoying a certain privilege or right.

For assistance with a criminal record or restoration of a driver’s license contact The University of Akron School of Law Reentry Clinic at 330-972-7751.

For sources on the effects of incarceration and criminal justice administration, check out the following library resources:

Waiting for an echo : the madness of American incarceration book cover

Lockdown on Rikers : shocking stories of abuse and injustice at New York's notorious jail book cover

American prison : a reporter's undercover journey into the business of punishment book cover

by Simone Richardson
Adult Services Librarian, Business & Government Division at Main Library