Nov 6, 2015

Athens County Reentry Task Force says Ohio's automatic license suspension law is ineffective

It also causes more harm than good

It is time for Ohio to join the majority of the nation and end a 25-year-old tradition of temporarily suspending a driver’s license for drug offenses that don’t involve a vehicle. Time has shown the practice doesn’t work. Even worse, it causes far more harm than good.

Thirty-four states have already abandoned this policy, which was first implemented at the federal level in the 1990s. Ohio’s Senate Bill 204 and House Bill 307 would allow our state to follow suit.

Both the SB and HB would provide judges with the discretion to impose license suspensions if, and only if, it’s a suitable punishment. In other words, it does not prohibit the suspension of a license. The six-month mandatory suspension simply would be eliminated. Members of the Athens County Reentry Task Force think this bill is a step in the right direction and hope to see it through to passage.

There is no doubt that unsafe drivers should be prohibited from driving until they are willing to abide by traffic safety laws. Suspending a license, in those instances, could be an appropriate punishment. But research has found that imposing a license suspension as a penalty for non-driving-related offenses “is ineffective,” as stated by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. The policy simply has not deterred the undesired behavior.

Lack of reliable transportation is the No. 1 barrier to employment. This is especially true for those in rural areas where public transportation is limited. Here in Athens County, for example, we have a robust public transit system, but it still does not reach all corners of the county. This means driving is an essential part of modern survival. Without driving privileges, many lose their jobs and struggle to find new ones. Every aspect of their lives is ultimately affected.

A study of a similar program in New Jersey found that 42% of drivers whose license were suspended lost their jobs, according to American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Of those, 45% did not find new employment. Of those that did find another job, 88% reported a decrease in income.

For the sake of their livelihood, many drive illegally, which leaves them vulnerable to other penalties. What we currently have in place is not good public policy. We have set these people up for failure. It’s easy to see how and why a family may fall into poverty and ultimately re-offend.

Let’s move on from this ineffective approach. Instead, let us embrace a policy that protects an individual’s ability to remain self-sufficient.

Athens County Reentry Task Force

About the Athens County Reentry Task Force
Formed in 2009, the Athens County Reentry Task Force is made up of community partners who work together to help ex-offenders transition back into society and become independent. The Task Force recognizes the need for a coordinated approach geared toward building and supporting a range of collaborative community programs to address the barriers to self-sufficiency in an effort to reduce crime, recidivism and improve public safety.

Sep 21, 2015

Coat drive hopes to Warm Up Athens County

Winter is just around the corner, which means it’s time to break out the winter coats. That is, assuming you’re fortunate enough to have one.

Too many people in our community, young and old, do not have the resources to buy a winter coat. For this reason, Athens County Job and Family Services is partnering with Athens County Children Services and together are asking for help from community members for the first-ever Warm Up Athens County coat drive.

“It’s not uncommon for adults to come into our office in the dead of winter with no coat on,” said Arian Smedley, Community Relations Coordinator with Athens County JFS. “Children will come in wrapped in a blanket. It’s a sad state of affairs that our system does not provide enough to cover a person’s every day needs. But that is the reality. We know the need goes beyond coats and our clientele. Community members can play a key part in helping to provide some relief.”

Jun 26, 2015

Athens County Reentry Task Force supports state's fair-hiring policy, but we can still do more

For ex-offenders, getting a job can be the difference between successful reintegration into society and going back to prison. But many in our county and in our state who have criminal records struggle with significant barriers to employment.

That’s why the Athens County Reentry Task Force applauds the state’s decision to remove the question on some public sector job applications that asks candidates about their criminal history. (This doesn’t apply to all public sector jobs and doesn’t apply at all to the private sector.)

Jun 9, 2015

Expert on elder exploitation to speak at Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Monday, June 15, 10 a.m.
Athens Community Center, Room B

To commemorate Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Athens County, an expert on elder exploitation will be speaking at the Athens Community Center on Monday, June 15, 10 a.m., to educate the community on the signs of elder abuse and exploitation and what you can do to help.

Athens County Job and Family Services has partnered with United Seniors of Athens County and the Athens Community Center to invite David M. Kessler to speak during this event, which is free and open to the public.

Coverage on the Senate version of the state budget

Dispatch: Ohio Senate unveils plan to cut taxes

Dispatch: Ohio Senate’s budget plan includes tuition freeze, changes to school funding