« Interesting Eighth Amendment attack waged against extreme application of Tennessee's "Drug Free School Zone" law | Main | Record sex-trafficking sentence, 472 years of imprisonment, imposed in Colorado court »

November 27, 2017

Ohio getting started on Justice Reinvestment 2.0 to confront latest criminal justice challenges

For more than a decade, the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Justice Department and the Pew Public Safety Performance Project have worked on "Justice Reinvestment" projects in numerous states. These projects generally involve careful study of state and local criminal case processing in order to identify inefficient use of limited prison space and efforts to reduce prison admission and reinvest resulting savings to services that would achieve better public safety outcomes at a lower cost. Now, as this local article from Ohio highlights, it at least one state a second generation of this project is underway:

Amid a glut of nonviolent drug offenders and probation violators serving time in state prisons, Ohio again is taking a look at criminal-justice reform. The effort seeks to tweak the system and criminal sentencing to account for the impact of violent crime and opioid-fueled offenses “while enhancing public safety.”

The 24-member “Justice Reinvestment” committee also hopes to reduce recidivism while pursuing schemes to better route offenders to the right place, whether prison or local community control programs. Emphasis will “explicitly focus on what is happening before prison, or in other words, the system’s ‘front end,’ where many decisions are made that impact both future judicial and corrections practices,” said Michael Buenger, administrative director of the Ohio Supreme Court.

The committee, which includes [State corrections Director Gary] Mohr, [Union County Prosecutor David] Phillips, [Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles] Schneider and other judges, prosecutors, lawmakers and state and local officials, is scheduled to submit a report and recommendations to the General Assembly in the fall of 2018.

The group began its work this month with a report from the Council of State Governments Justice Center that laid out the scope of its challenge:

‒ Reflecting the opioid addiction crisis, drug-abuse arrests increased 12 percent in Ohio to more than 32,000 annually between 2011 and 2016. Only North Dakota and South Dakota saw a higher increase. A total of 5,609 drug offenders were committed to state prisons last year alone.

‒ Property crime decreased 23 percent between 2011 and 2016 but violent crime ticked up 6 percent over 2015 and 2016, mostly because of increases in Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo. “Low-level crimes drive arrest activity and limit law enforcement’s capacity to respond to violent crime.”

‒ Ohio has the nation’s third-highest rate of people on probation and parole, nearly 244,000 at the end of 2015. Offenders released and then sent back to prison for probation violations account for 23 percent of annual commitments to state prisons. “Ohio still lacks a coherent strategy for recidivism reduction.”

‒ The number of offenders in the $1.8 billion-a-year prison system grew by 9 percent between 2000 and 2016, with the population generally holding steady since 2007 around 50,000 to 51,000. Offenders, in general, also are serving longer stretches in prison. “Prison crowding and costs remain high.”

‒ Ohio’s criminal sentencing scheme “has contributed to crowded prisons and large misdemeanor and felony probation populations. ... Ohio law shows a micromanaged approach to sentencing policy that is needlessly complex.”

State prisons housed 8,300 offenders when Mohr joined the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction as a teacher’s aide in 1974. By the middle of last year, that number had increased six-fold to 51,014 prisoners (just a tad off the all-time high), who cost an average of $72 a day to house. “Think about the budget, the amount of investment, the reason why we’re still on this path,” Mohr said. “I think there are too many Ohioans incarcerated. It’s a much better investment to place nonviolent offenders in community programs. All evidence shows it’s twice as effective at one-third the cost.”

Mohr is encouraged by a community-alternative program in which the state is spending up to $58 million over two years to divert low-level, nonviolent felony offenders, many convicted of drug possession, from state prisons to local programs. Since the middle of last year, the prison population has dropped nearly 5 percent to 48,799. Forty-eight participating counties are using work-release, substance-abuse treatment, intensive supervision and other programs. Franklin and other large counties still are deciding whether to participate.

Mohr said the state should invest in the lives of low-level offenders “earlier in their lives” in local corrections programs to help address employment, behavioral health and substance-abuse issues before they lead to more serious offenses and state prison time. “All of the counties that have tried it loved it. Ohio is, in my mind, safer than it was before.”

Part of the group’s discussions should center on taking some low-level felonies, such as simple drug possession, that are contributing to prison packing and making them misdemeanors to be handled locally, and improved probation services, Mohr said.

Judge Schneider said that judges are chafing under some criminal sentencing guidelines. “Mandatory sentencing makes sense for crimes like murder and rapes, but some of the drug charges where it is mandatory is frustrating,” he said. Judges should be free to tailor sentences for lower-level offenses to match the offender and his crime “if you can articulate specific facts” whether a prison sentence is appropriate or not, he said.

“If you want us to treat certain (felony) offenses as misdemeanors, then make them misdemeanors. Quite frankly, the legislature doesn’t have the will to do that,” Schneider said, adding, for example, that the current fifth-degree felony threshold of $500 in a theft offense should be raised. Lawmakers, he said, are too fond of creating new offenses and tinkering with prison sentences.

The state’s current scheme also is “schizophrenic” about drug addicts, the judge said. “We say it’s not his fault, it’s a disease. But when that person breaks into a house to fund that disease, it becomes a serious crime. It’s the same person, folks,” Schneider said.

Union County’s Phillips said that, from the perspective of prosecutors, “our primary interest is public safety, No. 1, and holding offenders accountable, No. 2.” He differed from Mohr’s assertion that prison is not appropriate for some. “You should talk to victims of crime and see if they think that is true. Community control sanctions do not work for some people and they need to go to prison.”

At the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission's website, one can now find these background documents with more information concerning the state's reinvestment in justice reinvestment:

Ohio Justice Reinvestment Ad Hoc Committee Kicks off Review of Criminal Justice System

Justice Reinvestment in Ohio: Overview

Justice Reinvestment 2.0 in Ohio: Launch Presentation

November 27, 2017 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

Comments

Drop in property crime and rise of violent crime are both the result of the opioid epidemic. Fewer addicts need to steal, being deceased. More competition for fewer customers is fueling the murder of competitors. The lawyer loves to use the phrase, non-violent drug offense. I suggest his trying to sell drugs in the territory of a competitor, as an experiment, with waivers from the prosecutor. See what happens. The police is nearly gone from these neighborhoods, and they are not the worry.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 27, 2017 11:26:07 AM

I am a rape survivor reading your blog!

After reading an article in today's Dispatch about this committee, I had to do something about trying to voice what many crime victims feel on these issues. Are there any crime victims asked to present their opinions on re-offenders up for parole before serving their sentence? My rapist is a repeat, serial rapist, Robert Blankenship, A212646 and he is up for parole, AGAIN, early 2018. My appointment with one parole board member is on December 7th, at 11:00 AM. If I could, I would have the whole committee be present for this appointment.

As Union County Prosecutor David Phillips says above, State Corrections Director Gary Mohr, and others, should talk to victims of crime and hear what they have to say! I feel we are being left out of these important discussions
and I feel this is not right.

Is there an email address to use for this special committee?

Sincerely,
C.L.

Posted by: C.L. | Nov 27, 2017 3:01:38 PM

CL. See this post advocating much less punishment for rape. Crazy, no?

http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2017/11/what-rape-reform-needs-more-convictions-less-punishment.html

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 28, 2017 8:08:12 AM

David B.

I checked out the post that you added. (copied and put it in my "parole file") Thank you.

How many of you reading this blog have a parole file for your very own case? What I see, over and over again, are people thinking we need to do this and that for these criminals. My thoughts are generally on rapists due to my rape in 1988. Robert Blankenship was paroled early from his first sentence of rape and burglary. He served only 7 years of his 15-75 year sentence. Good behavior. One condition of his release was to go to sex offender counseling. When I asked his parole officer if he attend any of these sessions I was told he did not.
Eight months after his early release, he raped me. I can't say if I was the first but I was not the last. I believe he was arrested early 1989.
Rehabilitate this man? I don't think so! New sentence 49-165 years. He is up for early release, for the third time, in 2018! My sentence is a life sentence!

Now, my important question I have for all of you... if you are involved in sentencing and/or changing laws and polices for these criminals, how many of you have ever spoken with a few rape victims or shooting victims, etc., before making these changes?
This "man" came into my HOME and raped me. And what if it had been your sister, your mother, your daughter?
You have me at a very difficult time because I have to go plead my case, again, to the parole board.

Another item I will bring up at this time... plea bargaining. I never got MY day in court in front of this animal.
Yes, there may be times when some victims don't want/need to do this but THIS victim wanted/needed a day in court. Don't always feel as if you are saving this person from having to do this. I wanted him to have to listen to ME!

And lastly... for now... IF we are to let these people out of prison early, and again, I am talking rapists, there must be some way of keeping track of them! In the past year we have the Reagan Tokes case. HER rapist, Brian Golsby, was wearing a GPS unit that didn't even monitor him in "real time"?? We now know that he committed robberies between January 24th thru February 7th. Why didn't someone know where this man was and what he was doing?
Reagan was raped and murdered on February 8th. There aren't enough people to track them! This has to change before we talk about letting them back on the streets.

C.L.

Posted by: C.L. | Nov 28, 2017 10:10:51 AM

CL. These are my personal feelings after your brief description.

1) The parole board that released him early in 1988 is 100% responsible for your rape, in 1989;

2) these sexual predators likely have dozens of unreported victims, each;

3) if he has done well in prison, he should not be deprived of the effective reason, supervision and structure. A well managed diabetic should not be deprived of diet and insulin, be released on the street, to stop insulin and to wolf down cake;

4) if you have symptoms of PTSD (nightmares, intrusive waking memories, excess startle, and avoidance of reminders), you will be re-traumatized by his release, not by a mental symptom, but by realistic fear of being assaulted by the released prisoner. If he has contacted you in any way, bring the evidence. It means, he still wants you;

5) if any officials have daughters in the home, demand their home addresses. He should be moved into the house next to theirs if any votes for release;

6) will he be listed on a sex offender registry? These are total regulatory quackery, and absolutely worthless. If one so much as criticizes the listed sex offender, one may be arrested for harassment of the sex offender. They would not have protected the little girls after which they were named. Megan opened the door to her neighbor and was taken. Jessica was taken from her bed, with her plush dolphin toy;

7) all votes for parole should be made public. You should take an ad out on Facebook, with the names, home addresses, phone numbers, work numbers, names of supervisors, political party affiliation of any official voting for release; you will place the ad on the Pantsuit Nation Facebook page. They will be hearing from thousands of shrieking, pussy hatted feminists, in front of their homes;

8) buy a gun, and shoot the parolee on sight, if he ever comes around, do it into the gut, first, then in the genitals. Say he kept coming. Do not mention this plan at a parole hearing.

You should understand something deep. Those officials owe him their jobs. They owe you nothing. They care about their jobs, and nothing about your safety. So, they will protect, privilege, and empower the criminal, and not the crime victim. If he is imprisoned again, they get to spend a lot of money to do so, and they get that money. If he had been deceased from the beginning, they would have no jobs in criminal justice.

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 28, 2017 11:25:53 PM

David B.

I appreciate the time it took you to list some of your personal feelings as a reply to my post.
Your #3 on the list was a very meaningful comparison to the reason this rapist might be doing well in prison. He is supervised, daily, hourly at times. Yes, THIS can work. Let's not let him out to have his cake!

Many of your other points have gone around in my mind for years. I've already been speaking with those available to help victims about IF he gets out and will he be coming after me.

In checking out some of the other listings from this site, I found articles on Governors basically bragging about meeting face to face with criminals in maximum security. So far I've not found where they sit with victims of crime when deciding on changing their laws and how to go about it.

Also, I would like a Governor/lawyer/judge or two to sit down at a computer, pretend they make minimum wage or slightly more and try and find a safe area of town to live. Check out the maps that show where these criminals are living. Years ago you could actually see a difference in areas but most, now, are full of these registered criminals OR the cost of rent is way too high.

Since I don't understand "blogs" and I'm not sure who I'm going back and forth with, I think I'll sign off.
Keep me in mind/prayers as I go through this time, again. Anyone is free to write a letter to the parole board in my support. I would love to have Robert Blankenship's folder overflowing with letters against his release.
If you don't know already, if you do write, his name and his prison number must be on each page that you send.
(A212646) Send off to the Parole Board, 770 West Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43222.

Professor Berman, after reading your web profile, I'm wondering if you are on this new committee.
If so, please do your best to present some victims of crime that are willing to speak about these issues.
If you are not, I'm guessing you know a few others that are. Reagan Tokes' parents need to be in on this!

C.L.

Posted by: C.L. | Nov 29, 2017 10:49:19 AM

Prof. Berman has never been to a conference where the real interest of victims has been represented. He supports the impact statement. However, the real interest is to not be victimized.

I have thought of starting a crime victim organization, along the lines of the AARP for the elderly. There are 30 million crime victims a year. They would provide advocacy, and services of genuine value to victims. It would have a real conservative bent. So it would not be feminist, but would go after the sexual predators and their protectors, with hammer and tongs. it would target lawyers, judges and legislators, which are the real cause of all crimes.

Would you join such an organization for $15 a year?

Posted by: David Behar | Nov 30, 2017 11:02:57 PM

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