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Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project surpasses 100 pardons

Initiative seeks to reduce barriers to the traditional clemency process

Gov. Mike DeWine visited The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law on Wednesday to celebrate granting more than 100 pardons as part of the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project.

The project, which started in 2019, provides free pardon application assistance to people meeting certain criteria who can show they have been rehabilitated and have contributed positively to their communities in the years since their convictions. It seeks to reduce the barriers qualified people may face when going through the traditional clemency application process.

Gov. Mike DeWine discusses the Expedited Pardon ProjectInitially launching as a partnership with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the Moritz College of Law and the University of Akron, the project expanded in 2021 to also include higher education support from Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, the University of Dayton School of Law, and the Ohio Justice & Policy Center in partnership with the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

“Those who’ve transformed their lives after a criminal conviction deserve an opportunity,” said DeWine. “The pardons I’ve had the privilege of issuing as part of this program affirm the positive changes that the recipients have made in their post-conviction lives and allow them to let go of the mistakes that have been holding them back.”

A criminal conviction often has long-lasting consequences, beyond the sentences people serve. With a pardon, reformed individuals have a path forward with expanded career, education and volunteer opportunities. Because of the actions of the Ohio legislature, pardon recipients’ criminal records also are sealed, furthering the opportunity for them to live without the stigma of a criminal conviction.

The impact of the project could be heard and felt in the stories two pardon recipients shared. Carla Thomas and Gene Hill both received college degrees but struggled to find meaningful employment because of their prior convictions. They described the feeling of “a black cloud being lifted off their shoulders” when they received their pardons.

Doug Berman, executive director of Ohio State’s Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, recognized the continuing commitment and dedication of the higher education and community partners with the project. He also expressed gratitude for each pardon applicant and praised the courage and fortitude they demonstrate.

“I’m incredibly grateful that we can play a small role in your stories,” Berman said.

To learn more about the project, visit ohioexpeditedpardon.org.

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