For many people who have felonies or misdemeanors on their records, it is no easy task to get a foot in the employment door. A conviction and time behind bars can remain unforgiving gatekeepers, blocking the path to job opportunities long after sentences are served. Employment prospects often are derailed right at the application stage when job-hunters with felonies in their past check a box on the application form asking about a conviction for a crime.
An estimated 24,000 prisoners are released each year from Ohio prisons. The expectation is that they will become law-abiding and productive citizens. Steady employment is critical to re-establish a foothold back in their communities. In most instances, “the box” becomes a high hurdle, as potential employers are reluctant — understandable, though not always justified — to take a chance in hiring people with a criminal history.
Policy changes adopted Tuesday by the city of Akron will remove the box from application forms for classified city jobs, excluding safety-related employment such as law enforcement and schools. Summit County adopted a similar policy last year. Applicants for city jobs now will be able to complete the civil service tests, providing information on their criminal records when they get to the interview stage. The new policy also lowers to three years the wait period for ex-felons (other than those convicted of violent, sexual and drug offenses) to be eligible for city work.
This is welcome change. It offers ex-felons at least a chance to get a foot on the ladder and reduces the sting of collateral sanctions.