LIMA — Iyisha Russell is looking for redemption. But second chances are hard to come by for those who have a criminal record, even when the crime was committed years ago.
Russell, 27, was charged with a second-degree felony for burglary when she was 18 years old. She pleaded guilty to a reduced charge one year later.
“It looks to be very serious when you say it like that, but the reality is this was a home that I lived in,” she said. “It was my sister’s home. I regret what I did, but I do not believe that I should have to deal with this for the rest of my life.”
Last November, Russell applied to have her record sealed. But the court denied her request because the charge was classified as a violent offense, and therefore not eligible for record sealing.
Russell is now advocating for others who were convicted of a felony when they were 18-21 but are unable to have their records sealed, making it difficult to find jobs or housing.
“This is how we become life-long felons,” she said. “This is how we become life-long criminals. This is what we’re trying to stop. The recidivism rate is horrible.”
Lima City Councilor Derry Glenn, who represents the sixth ward, has joined Russell in calling for Gov. Mike DeWine and state representatives to consider revising Ohio’s criminal justice reform bill that originally passed in 2012, allowing some individuals with criminal histories to seal those records under certain conditions.
Russell has started a petition asking state representatives to revise those qualifications so that more people can have their case heard by a judge.
“(We want to) give them an opportunity for her to walk in there, explain herself, what she has done since she was out,” said Glenn, who held a press conference on Thursday to draw attention to struggles young people with criminal records go through when applying for jobs, housing or an education.
Russell said that while she has moved on from her past and found work as a server, she still struggles.
“Honestly, I want to do better,” she said. “I strive every year to try to do better, but I get knocked back I don’t know how many times a day. It’s one of those situations.”
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.