« House Oversight Committee schedules hearing this week on "Criminal Justice Reform and Efforts Reduce Recidivism" | Main | SCOTUS denies cert on Wisconsin case with defendant challenging risk-assessment sentencing »

June 26, 2017

"Should Ohio automatically release inmates if prisons too crowded?"

The question in title of this post is the headline of this Columbus Dispatch article which somewhat imperfectly describes one somewhat notable provision of a huge criminal justice revision proposal in the Buckeye State. Here is the context:

A proposed sweeping rewrite of Ohio’s criminal laws includes a provision that would allow the state to release hundreds of low-level, nonviolent inmates when the prison population hits 47,000. The state prison population last week stood at 50,093 — 3,093 above that threshold.

That change is among hundreds recommended by the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, which on June 15 completed a two-year task of rewriting the entire state criminal code. The result is a 4,017-page bill submitted to the General Assembly. The committee composed of judges, legislators, prosecutors, law-enforcement officials and others voted 18-2 to recommend the overhaul.

Other changes include the return of a version of “bad time” for inmates who misbehave in prison, reduced add-on sentences for crimes committed while in possession of a gun, expanded opportunities for offenders to obtain drug treatment in lieu of prison, and an increase in the theft amount that triggers a felony charge to $2,500.

Created by the legislature, the committee was charged with “enhancing public safety and the administration of criminal justice.” The last time criminal laws were overhauled was 1974, although some statutes date to 1953 and have been “effectively superseded or contradicted” by new layers of laws. The committee’s recommendations need the approval of the legislature.

Judge Frederick D. Pepple of Auglaize County Common Pleas Court, chairman of the committee, said he’s pleased with the overall report. “These improvements make the system better and could save hundreds of millions of dollars. When I stand back and look at it, without getting into every nitty-gritty detail, I’m satisfied.”

Pepple said the rewrite cut down the length of the code by nearly 25 percent, mostly by condensing language. More important, Pepple said the changes would “significantly improve the quality of justice and better protect the people of Ohio ... We tried to make it readable and understandable so people know what is against the law.”

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien was one of two committee members, along with Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson, to vote against the package. O’Brien said that while he agreed with most of the recommendations, several were deal breakers, including the prison-release provision, which he said would be like “Bastille Day every day.” O’Brien said he disagreed with granting “unilateral authority to reduce prison population.”

The provision would be triggered when the total prison population exceeds 43,500 men and 3,500 women for at least 30 days in a row. At that point, the director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would “direct the parole board to select from those who are eligible for overcrowding parole release a sufficient number of prisoners to be released within thirty days to maintain the inmate population at less than 43,500 for males and 3,500 for females. No more than five hundred male inmates and five hundred female inmates may be released per month pursuant to this section.” The board would select inmates for release “who present the least threat to the public, including the victims and their families,” and those who have committed nonviolent and non-sex-oriented crimes.

In a statement to The Dispatch, Gary Mohr, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said he voted for (but did not propose) the overcrowding release provision. However, he said he prefers a method built into the current state-budget proposal to divert nonviolent drug offenders to community treatment “to avoid the potentially lifelong collateral consequences of coming to prison.”...

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, praised the committee. “How this group of experts from varying political viewpoints worked together over the last two years speaks volumes about their commitment to pursuing reforms within Ohio’s criminal-justice system.” Holly Harris, executive director of the U.S. Justice Action Network, said that if the rewrite of criminal laws is adopted, “Ohio is ready to take another leap forward on reforming their justice system.”

June 26, 2017 at 02:40 PM | Permalink


Pro-criminal scum must provide their home addresses. All released prisoners are to be released next door to them, and not dumped like toxic waste on poor neighborhoods.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 26, 2017 8:30:40 PM

David give it a rest. Personally I think it should be automatuc. The government knows to the head how many bodies that system can handle. So sorry when they hit it they have two choices tap any more intakes or release some. They are not special! If I open a building with a business the fire marshal will inspect and tell me exactly how many people I am allowed. If he says 100 then walks in and fines 200 I would be closed before I could say "shit*

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Jun 27, 2017 1:17:07 AM

Rod. With 35 million crimes a year, I am not giving it any rest. This is ridiculous.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 27, 2017 2:07:41 AM

There's always the option of building more capacity.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jun 27, 2017 11:46:47 AM

Yes it yes David but you are fighting the wrong battle a large part of those 35 million crimes a year have no real human vic. They are just another way for the state to pick our pockets. Thanks to that retarded and illegal supreme court decision that added the "so-called" civil laws we have had this mess since they have basically said export does not apply to " civil law"

Pulled that one right out of either their empty heads or their asses

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Jun 28, 2017 12:42:19 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB