Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ohio Passes Ambitious Prison Reform Bill

Ohio Governor John Kasich has signed a significant criminal justice reform package with bipartisan support.

The criminal sentencing reform package is designed to reduce the prison population by keeping low-level offenders out of prison -- placing them instead in halfway houses or community-based correction facilities -- and creating new pathways for certain inmates to shorten their sentences, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

The reforms also eliminate disparities in punishments for crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses while making it easier for former prisoners to find jobs.

The changes are expected to save the state more than $46 million over the next four years, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Undisputed is the need to ease prison overcrowding. Ohio's prison population this month is 50,561, significantly above the corrections system's capacity of 38,389, reported the Plain-Dealer.

The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association was opposed to the legislation. According to the Plain-Dealer executive director John Murphy called the earned credit program a "mockery of our sentencing laws" and questioned the motivation for the bill's early release provisions.

"It appears the only important thing at this stage, however, is that these provisions justify reducing DRC's budget," Murphy testified last month before a Senate committee.

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