As Ohio’s inmate population once again approaches record levels, with no money available for bricks and mortar, prisons chief Gary Mohr is looking at something never used here before — emergency early release of prisoners, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
In his budget overview for 2015-16, Mohr said, the department will “request strengthened language on emergency release of inmates contained in Ohio Revised Code 2967.18.”
The changes Mohr will ask the General Assembly to make weren’t specified. JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, emphasized that emergency release will be an option only if overcrowding persists and money is unavailable for additional prison beds.
The agency’s current two-year budget is about $3.2 billion. New biennial budget figures won’t be decided until much later this year.
As of Dec. 29, Ohio prisons held 50,641 inmates, 31 percent above design capacity and about 1,000 more than two years ago at this time.
The section of state law Mohr referenced, ORC 2967.18, specifies the chain of events for declaring an “overcrowding emergency,” resulting in the release of some nonviolent prisoners 30, 60 or 90 days early. Enacted in 1997, the early-release provision has never been used.
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