Law schools at Ohio State University and the University of Akron will help Gov. Mike DeWine process information about felons. DeWine wants to provide quicker answers to nonviolent former felons who petition him to pardon their criminal offenses. DeWine announced a project Tuesday to simplify and expedite the pardon process for rehabilitated one-time criminals who have led model lives for at least a decade after release from prison, reports the Columbus Dispatch. Law students and staff will assist by screening pardon applicants to ensure they meet qualifications that include employment, community service, and the payment of fines and restitution.
Qualified applicants’ cases will be forwarded to the Ohio Parole Board for expedited pardon recommendations to the governor within six months. The current process for all applicants can take years. “There are decent people all over the state who are living in the shadow of a long-past and regretted mistake, people who, despite becoming law-abiding citizens, can’t get ahead because their criminal records are holding them back,” DeWine said. A pardon does not automatically erase or seal a criminal conviction, which must be pursued by separate court action, but they hold the promise of increasing housing, education, professional licensing and job opportunities for deserving applicants through the Expedited Pardon Project, DeWine said. DeWine received 442 commutation and pardon requests in his first year as governor. DeWine named a working group to recommend ways to improve the parole supervision of more than 20,000 felons.