For 15 years, charges of aggravated threat and domestic violence followed Betsy Davis everywhere she went.
If she applied for a job, potential employers deemed her background too risky for a position.
“It got in the way of everything I’ve done,” said Davis, 34, from Whitehall. “It didn’t matter what I was doing.”
For people like Davis, however, the Legal Aid Society of Columbus is here to help.
The organization, in conjunction with JPMorgan Chase, is hosting a free record sealing clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 23 at the Chase branch at 3233 Cleveland Ave. in Northland.
To register, which is mandatory, you must call the company at 614-241-2001.
Those who register must live in Franklin County.
Meagan Van Brocklin, lead counsel for the Re-entry Income Security Education (RISE) team for the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, said sealing records can be a complex process but involves a few basic steps — most offenses usually take one to three years. from the date the case is closed, fines have been paid and restitution made and probation is over and no pending or open case exists.
On-site attorneys will assist walk-in clients through the process and help them prepare an application to have their criminal records sealed, which costs $50 when filing with the courts, she said.
A court date is set and a judge must consider the offender’s criminal history, whether the offender is rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court, and whether the offender’s interest outweighs the state’s interest in keeping the open file, according to Van Brocklin.
“Each case is assessed based on the individual’s record,” she said.
Others who are currently deemed ineligible to have criminal records sealed by LASC will be given instructions on how to proceed, according to Van Brocklin.
The benefit of having past offenses sealed is huge for the offender, who might struggle to find a job, housing or volunteering at a school, she said.
About one in three Ohios have a criminal record of some kind, according to information provided by the LASC.
One in 11 has been convicted of a felony, according to reports. This contributed to more than $3 billion in lost wages as recently as 2017, according to the legal aid society.
“It really unsettles a person with a record and their whole family,” Van Brocklin said.
“These (offences) are really preventing people from earning a living wage.”
“Helping individuals clear their records is a step toward creating equitable access to meaningful jobs,” said Nan Gibson, executive director of the JPMorgan Chase Policy Center. “Supporting these… clinics is just part of the commitment JPMorgan Chase is making to help more people get second chances.”
Davis said she turned to the Legal Aid Society of Columbus in October and eventually had her records sealed by a judge.
Now, she says, she’s a straight student with a 4.0 GPA at Ultimate Medical Academy, studying billing and coding.
Davis encourages other offenders to seek help from the LASC.
“Don’t think about it, just do it,” she said.