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June 27, 2012

Ohio's Republican legislature, prodded by Republican gov, enacts major felon reentry reforms

This local story from my own Columbus Dispatch, which is headlined "Bill signings include help for freed felons," effectively highlights not only that bipartisanship remains vibrant on some "smart" criminal justice reforms, but also that having Republicans in charge of a state's political branches may be essential to moving these reforms from good ideas to enacted legislation.  Here is how the piece starts:

A bill that will reduce barriers to employment and education for felons when they leave prison was among the 13 pieces of legislation that Gov. John Kasich signed yesterday.

Deemed the “collateral sanctions” bill, Senate Bill 337 will make it easier for people getting out of prison to get jobs cutting hair, working construction, selling hearing aids and working as security guards. Judges will be able to award certificates to remove job barriers and protect employers from potential liability. Also, courts can order community service instead of fines or driver’s-license revocation for non-driving offenses, and child-support orders can be modified when inmates are in jail or have a felony record.

It was a truly bipartisan bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Shirley Smith of Cleveland and Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati — and championed by Kasich — that the House passed unanimously.

On issues key modern state criminal justices ranging from sentencing reform to collateral consequences to use of clemency powers, Ohio's Governor John Kasich has been, in my view, one of the most engaged and effective chief executives in the nation.  (For this reason, I may now have to start rooting for Mitt Romney to pick Gov Kasich as his running mate, though I doubt he is on any realistic short lists.)  And the Ohio General Assembly, perhaps because it is dominated by members of the same party as Governor Kasich and has a number of real thoughtful members on both sides of the aisle, merits great credit for not turning any of these issues into a political football to kick around seeking polling points.

Though sometimes I fear that praise from the ivory tower might hurt rather than help some politicians, I still must give a proud shout-out and hearty praise to Gov Kasich and the Ohio legislature.  I hope they keep up the great work and keep trying to make sure my Ohio tax dollars are not wasted on unduly harsh and ineffective criminal laws and policies.

June 27, 2012 at 09:53 AM | Permalink


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All is overshadowed by the ban on concealed compartments in your own car.

Posted by: Poirot | Jun 27, 2012 10:53:54 AM

These reforms seem to make sense. Too bad Kasich doesn't show the same sort of backbone when it comes to providing final justice to those who have waited so long for it.

Doug, I know I owe you a response on an earlier thread. Will try to get to that today.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 27, 2012 11:18:55 AM

No worries on the other front, federalist, and I always appreciate the time you make to engage in this forum. I have just come to think, given what I took to be your general disaffinity for extreme drunk driving sentences even when there are tangible victims of the offense, that you view mens rea as very important to sentencing matters (both constitutionally and otherwise). Thus, while I could imagine your disdain for the Evan Miller, whose mens rea seemed more extreme, I was a bit surprised by your disdain for Kuntrell Jackson, especially since all the the Miller ruling means is that the Jacksons of the world get a chance to argue to judge or jury for a sentence less than LWOP.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 27, 2012 11:27:38 AM

I don't believe I've said anything here about being lenient to drunk drivers. Perhaps, since I believe in tiering the punishment based on BAC and would insist upon proper evidentiary presentations, you have taken that for being soft on drunk drivers. Most assuredly, I am not. Drunken driving is a serious offense. Perhaps, as I think, maybe I have pointed out that most drunk driving incidents don't result in harm, but I don't advocate weak punishments. Repeat drunk drivers are a menace, and they should be treated as such.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 27, 2012 12:55:57 PM

That's heartening to see, especially from a Republican administration (and especially so when the current federal Democratic one has been so...disappointing...on matters of criminal justice).

Thanks for posting Prof.

Posted by: Guy | Jun 27, 2012 4:58:49 PM

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