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New tool aims to help Columbus residents seal criminal records, get jobs

The program aims to expand work and housing opportunities to residents.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus City Council members unveiled a new criminal record sealing program on Tuesday.  

Opportunity Port is a mobile-friendly tool aimed at reducing barriers when it comes to applying for record sealing. 

The goal is to meet community members where they’re at and connect them to legal help in an effort to make the process more effective, according to Columbus City Councilmember Rob Dorans.   

“We’re only as successful as the ones we’re trying to help,” said Dorans.   

The program aims to expand work and housing opportunities to residents, in turn keeping them out of poverty. The need for a program like Opportunity Port was only highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dorans said, emphasizing the importance of an equitable recovery.

Before the pandemic, a criminal record decreased an applicant’s chance of getting a callback by roughly 50%. 

“While it may seem like jobs are plentiful right now, current jobs are not opening doors for everyone,” said Dorans. “How can someone with a criminal conviction rebuild their life if their record disqualifies them from nearly 25% of jobs within their community?”    

Beginning Dec. 1, eligible residents in Franklin County can take an online survey on Opportunity Port, then select a service provider who will help them with their application. From there, employees with Franklin County Municipal Court’s Self Help Resource Center, the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and Equality Ohio will assist applicants to make sure the process runs smoothly. 

According to a release, record sealing has proven to increase wages by 25% on average within one year, while also reducing a person’s chance of being arrested again. 

“Reentry services are critical to uplifting communities disproportionately impacted by a criminal record, and Opportunity Port was designed to make the process easier,” said Dorans. 

You can learn more about Opportunity Port here

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