Opportunity Port is an online portal that connects those with criminal records in Franklin County, Ohio with the legal help they need to complete and file a record sealing application. Record sealing enables those with criminal records to access vital resources, but the application process can be complex and time consuming. Mindful of these barriers, Columbus City Council spearheaded an initiative under the leadership of Councilmember Rob Dorans to create a service that simplifies and streamlines the process of completing and filing record sealing applications.
Persons seeking record sealing through Opportunity Port first complete a 5-minute survey on the site about their criminal record history. Eligible applicants then work with a legal partner to complete and file a record sealing application. Next, the court confirms the applicant’s eligibility, and the applicant attends a court hearing in front of a judge.
The project was awarded $500,000 by The Ohio State University Alliance for the American Dream, a collaboration with Schmidt Futures, and brought to the Moritz College of Law to be managed by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC) in July 2021.
Encouraged by the work of J.J. Prescott and Sonja B. Starr, Opportunity Port’s goal is to make the record sealing process more accessible and increase the uptake of applications in Franklin County. To measure the impact Opportunity Port has on its participants, DEPC’s Senior Researcher, Alex Fraga, has partnered with Dr. Stephanie Moulton and Ph.D. candidate Adrienne DiTommaso of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs to measure changes in earnings, employment, and other economic indicators.
In the summer of 2023, Opportunity Port was awarded $75,000 by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Civil Justice Program to scale the project. With these funds, Opportunity Port will make its remote record sealing assistance tool available in three additional Ohio counties.