DEPC facilitates a faster path to pardon in Ohio

By Drug Enforcement and Policy Center Staff  |  Autumn 2019 in Review

Governor Mike DeWine launches the Ohio Governor's Expedited Pardon Project at a press conference in Saxbe Auditorium.
Governor Mike DeWine launches the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project at a press conference in Saxbe Auditorium.

A new project facilitated by Moritz College of Law Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) will provide qualifying applicants access to a simplified and accelerated pardon process in Ohio. Launched by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in December, the project aims to help law-abiding citizens hindered by a long-past mistake. “I am grateful that Governor DeWine reached out to university partners,” said DEPC Executive Director and Professor of Law Douglas A. Berman.

The Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project (OGEPP) is a collaboration between Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the DEPC, and the Reentry Clinic at The University of Akron School of Law. The organizations worked together to streamline the process and finalize eligibility criteria.

Most notably, applicants must have completed their last sentence at least 10 years ago, have a record of employment and volunteer service, and have a compelling reason for obtaining a pardon.

“The project is further testament of the myriad ways the university serves our state,” said Lincoln L. Davies, Dean of the Moritz College of Law. Students at the two law schools will screen applicants and provide individualized assistance to those identified as potential pardon candidates. Through direct client engagement, students will improve the well-being of Ohioans while deepening their service experience and further preparing them to be leaders and engaged citizens.

Lincoln L. Davies, Dean of the Moritz College of Law, addresses the audience.

People with criminal records face legal and regulatory restrictions that limit access to employment, housing, licenses, education, and other opportunities. A pardon can help Ohio residents by further illustrating that they have paid their debt to society and are ready to move on from their past convictions. What a pardon cannot do, is automatically seal court records pertaining to that conviction.

Professor Berman and Reentry Clinic Director and Associate Clinical Professor Joann Sahl are hopeful that this project will encourage Ohio legislators to consider enacting provisions for automatic record sealing once a pardon is granted, further limiting the consequences created by a past criminal conviction. Data collected through the OGEPP could shed light on how record sealing and other remedies such as a Certificate of Qualification for Employment can further benefit pardon recipients.

Through June 2020, Professors Berman and Sahl, along with the project’s collaborators, will evaluate potential for expansion to other law schools in the state. Professor Berman underscored that increasing access to the pardon process is central to the project’s mission. “It is so very important that the historic remedy of clemency be available to all those who have demonstrated that they ought not and need not bear the burdens that come with a criminal record.”

For more information on the Ohio Governor’s Expedited Pardon Project and to apply, visit: