Written by Ashley Ward, Ohio Access to Justice Foundation Justice for All Fellow

Thousands of Ohioans worry about having a roof over their family’s heads. This worry is very tangible for Ohioans impacted by the criminal legal system who are trying to reenter society and succeed—only to be held back by hundreds of barriers affecting their housing, employment, licensing, education, community service, and more. How can Ohioans with criminal records succeed if the law prevents them from moving forward?

Stable, safe, and affordable housing reduces recidivism and homelessness. When people released from incarceration are unstably housed, homeless, or live in a high-crime neighborhood, they are more likely to recidivate. People who are released from incarceration and receive supportive housing are less likely to be arrested and incarcerated post-release. 

To secure housing, people require a stable income, but most employers use background checks on their applicants and approximately 1 in 4 (1.3 million) Ohio jobs are not available to people with a conviction. Although public housing is an affordable housing option for people released from incarceration, public housing providers exclude various people with criminal records. When people are incarcerated once, they are 7 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population, but people who are incarcerated more than once experience homelessness at a rate 13 times higher. As a result of experiencing homelessness, the people who were previously incarcerated become more likely to be arrested and incarcerated again.

Ohioans impacted by the criminal legal system are affected by dozens of federal, state, and municipal laws that restrict their ability to rent subsidized housing, pass landlords’ criminal background check policies, and maintain their housing without being evicted. This causes impacted Ohioans to become rent-burdened and accept inhabitable housing which fosters instability for them and their families. 

OJPC is committed to protecting the housing rights of Ohioans with criminal records through direct representation, community outreach, and policy advocacy. OJPC is advocating for fair housing policies with the state legislature and locally. OJPC is seeking to reduce recidivism and homelessness by recommending best practices for fair housing policies. OJPC is advocating for certificates of qualification for housing (CQHs) in House Bill 50 to remove mandatory legal barriers for tenants and limit landlord liability. Help us pass this historic bill by asking your state representatives to pass House Bill 50 to establish CQHs. 

Because of the dozens of housing barriers, Ohioans impacted by the criminal legal system must be aware of their housing rights. OJPC and HOME worked together to create three fact sheets to help impacted individuals understand the barriers they face when applying to and leasing rental housing, and their protections against housing discrimination. If you are impacted by the criminal legal system and believe that you have a housing legal issue, contact Ashley Ward, Ohio Access to Justice Foundation Justice for All Fellow, by registering for our Second Chance Legal Clinic