Little-known program helps those returning from prison

By Mackenzi Klemann -

LIMA — A little-known provision of Ohio’s 2012 criminal justice reform package may help Ohioans who don’t qualify to have their records expunged or sealed from public view. But few Allen County residents are taking advantage.

The 2012 reform legislation created an appeal process for Ohioans with a criminal record to show they have been rehabilitated and should be considered for professional licensure programs or employment.

The process is known as the Certificate of Qualification for Employment, which allows individuals to appeal occupational licensure boards that bar applicants with a criminal history. Holding a CQE also protects employers from negligent hiring lawsuits.

But only nine Allen County residents have filed for a CQE, according to Allen County Clerk of Court records.

Attorneys with Legal Aid of Western Ohio and Advocates in Lima are hoping more people who have been barred from employment because of a prior conviction consider applying for a CQE.

“We’d like to use this as a tool to try to get more people hired and in stable employment and housing,” said Kara Ford, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Toledo.

While holding a CQE does not prohibit employers from viewing or considering an individual’s criminal record, Ford said it could be a conversation starter.

“(It) demonstrates that they are law abiding citizens since their time in prison or probation,” she said. “It shows that they are no longer a danger to the community (and) it helps employers because it gives them protection.”

CQE applications are first reviewed by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. If approved, applications then move before a judge with the Common Pleas Court in Allen County.

Sex offenders are not eligible. And there are other restrictions, such as those related to licensure for medical and law enforcement professions.

By Mackenzi Klemann

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