We welcome a movement in Ohio to make the criminal justice system more compassionate and pragmatic, and the Expedited Pardon Project recently announced by Gov. Mike DeWine is another positive development.

The goal is to make it easier and much faster for nonviolent former felons who have stayed out of trouble for at least a decade to receive formal pardons.

It’s not just a matter of pride; a felony conviction is a shackle that can keep people from reaching a good job, safe housing, an education loan or any number of things that could make the difference between getting ahead and giving up.

Convicted felons already can apply for pardons, but the system is heavily backlogged with applications from people who, DeWine said, "don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell." Getting a recommendation from the Ohio Parole Board can take years.

DeWine’s idea is to enlist the help of law students and educators at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law and the University of Akron School of Law to vet applications and zero in on those who do have a chance: those who have committed no further crimes for at least 10 years; have paid any court-ordered fines and restitution; are working or have a good reason not to be; and have done volunteer or community service work.

Those whose applications meet the criteria are expected to get a hearing before the parole board within six months.

The law schools deserve thanks for lending much-needed manpower to such a worthy cause, but they also are likely to benefit. Delving into those applications should give students and seasoned lawyers alike a better understanding of how the criminal justice system affects the lives of the human beings caught up in it.

That can’t help but make for more-enlightened lawyers and judges down the road, and that benefits everyone.

The pardon project is in line with other initiatives to do away with practices that needlessly damage lives without helping society in any way. These include recognizing when drug offenders or prostitutes actually are addicts or trafficking victims in need of help, and eliminating counterproductive punishments such as suspending driver’s licenses for offenses that don’t have anything to do with driving.

Punishment for a single nonviolent criminal episode should end when the prison sentence ends. Society has nothing to lose and much to gain by helping reclaim lives.

— The Columbus Dispatch