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June 30, 2011

"Sentencing-overhaul law to reduce Ohio's prison population"

Criminal-law-art0-gfnd7k9s-10630gfx-criminal-law-tab-eps The title of this post is the headline of this article in today's Columbus Dispatch.  Here are the details:

The tough-on-crime cycle that began in the 1980s came full circle yesterday when Gov. John Kasich signed criminal-sentencing reform that could reduce the prison population by several thousand inmates in the next three years.

Former Attorney General Jim Petro, who was there to watch Kasich sign House Bill 86 into law, said he was relieved. "It didn't work then, and it isn't working now," Petro said of the crime crackdown that he supported as a Republican state lawmaker and enforced as attorney general from 2003 to 2007.  He said the 1980s view of crime is too costly to maintain.

It is projected that the reform law will save taxpayers $46.3 million over three years, while reducing the prison population by about 7.5 percent.  State prisons now hold 50,655 inmates, about 31 percent over the design capacity.

Legislative backers consistently said savings would reach $78 million, based on an estimate from a study done for the state by the Council of State Governments.  But Carlo LoParo, spokesman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the actual savings will be almost $46.3million.  He said that's because not all elements proposed by the study ended up in the final version of the legislation.

The law will divert some nonviolent offenders, including drug offenders, to community programs; give inmates the chance to earn up to 8 percent credit off their sentences by completing treatment and training programs; and allow the release of inmates, with court approval, after they have served at least 80 percent of their sentences.  The law also equalizes penalties for crack and powder-cocaine possession and raises the threshold for a felony theft charge to $1,000 from $500.

Kasich signed the bill in an Ohio Senate hearing room jammed with lawmakers and past and present prison officials.  "I get emotional about this because I think the passage of this bill and the changing of this law is going to result in the saving of many, many lives, maybe even thousands," Kasich said.

Ohio prisons director Gary C. Mohr called it "a day of hope."  He said the law will keep nonviolent offenders out of prison where they now come into contact with -- and are negatively influenced by -- long-term offenders and violent gang members....

Other provisions of the law will require the prisons agency to issue a report justifying why they are keeping inmates 65 or older, provide certificates to help former inmates get jobs and create an instant diversion program for shoplifters.

The bill also includes reforms related to youth offenders.  "These reforms will mitigate placing kids on a conveyor belt to adult crime," said Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court.

June 30, 2011 at 11:19 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Everyone talks about how important it is to deal effectively with youthful offenders but in far too many cases juvenile court is a judicial backwater. That is a very costly policy a good illustration of this is to look at the age when arrested of prison inmates.

Posted by: John Neff | Jun 30, 2011 11:40:18 AM

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