Sealing criminal records in Columbus Ohio just got a little easier. The Columbus City Council is in receipt of a private $500,000 grant to assist the community in sealing criminal records. The grant is courtesy of the Alliance for the American Dream. Scmidt Futures put forward the competitive grant program to fund the online portal “Opportunity Port“. This facility offers access to legal expertise to navigate sealing certain records. Moreover there are substantial numbers of residents who qualify to have their records sealed however find the process somewhat prohibitive. Typically the current process involves a person to person attorney meeting along with form filling, reviewing and eligibility. The application thereafter has to go before prosecutors prior to a judges final decision. The online portal (Opportunity Port) streamlines the process forwarding applications direct to attorneys like the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

This is a not for profit agency offering legal services to the disadvantaged people in Central Ohio. The Legal Aid Society were also in receipt of $130,000 in 2019 from the City Council. The funding specifically to seal marijuana related court records and additionally to train and bring in more attorneys. The funding was applied for in 2018 confirms Ohio State University, one of  the four universities involved with the Schmidt fund. The fund’s focus is on public benefits and created by Google executive chairman Eric Scmidt and his wife. At the heart of the problem is racist policies and the persecution of  black, brown and minority communities. Consequently the criminal justice system currently only serves to perpetuate and compound racial inequality. A criminal record restricts access to education, housing and employment. Indeed these three key factors bring personal and family stability and reduce recidivism.

The online portal may well be functional by the Summer. In addition the council may be able to contribute further funding as it anticipates significant demand for the service. Approval for funding for an “early warning system” to profile officer behaviour to highlight possible future problems of misconduct. The other positive being the encouragement of positive conduct. Finally around $205 million was set aside for city employees inclusive a substantial sum for health insurance through to January 2022.