State expungement bill makes sense
On June 10 state Senators Michael Rulli and Sean O’Brien introduced SB 160. If passed, this bill will make it much easier to expunge records for those once incarcerated for mostly nonviolent offenses. While some see this bill as controversial, it will provide Ohioians with some much needed criminal justice reform.
Reforms to the criminal justice system are already sweeping the nation on both the state and federal levels, but there still is a long way to go. For too long, we have turned individuals who would otherwise be productive members of society into criminals for something that’s often a victimless or nonviolent activity. This has resulted in far too many good people forced into a culture of drugs, violence and crime.
The majority of those who enter prison will one day walk the streets again. These are people who just might have made a mistake when they were younger, or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, our criminal justice system all but ensures these people will fall back into a cycle of recidivism because they are often barred a job or denied basic rights.
Both conservatives and liberals have their reasons for supporting criminal justice reform, and both are equally valid. It is not fiscally conservative to keep otherwise productive members of society behind bars. It is not socially liberal to turn our backs on those who have made a mistake in their lives, as if the rest of us are perfect. No matter political persuasion, keeping people out of prison by improving their lives is something everyone should be able to back.
Senator Rulli’s and O’Brien’s expungement bill not only showcases a positive example of bipartisanship, but it also takes a step in the right direction for those who need it the most. While certainly this isn’t all the reform Ohio needs to its criminal justice system, it’s a great place to start. This isn’t about being soft or hard on crime, it’s about being smart on crime, and SB 160 perfectly encompasses that mindset.
As Sen. Rulli points out, “This isn’t a partisan issue — it is about allowing people to advance their lives with dignity.”
I believe that is exactly the mindset we all must have if we are to expect both our state and our country to move forward on this issue.