The key to a healthy, happy community is a safe environment for our families and children. As a former Court of Appeals Judge and County Prosecutor, I understand the importance of protecting the citizens of Ohio from dangerous offenders. The safety of our families always comes first, and there are a number of ways we can reform our corrections system to improve its functioning, foster economic development and better protect our communities.

There are currently many features of state sentencing practices that need to be reworked and updated. We all benefit when our correction facilities effectively rehabilitate offenders at a more efficient cost to the taxpayers. With an impending $8 billion budget gap, it is vital that we explore more fiscally responsible spending on our prison system while also looking at ways to reduce recidivism rates.

One area of corrections that the Ohio House and Ohio Senate have focused on is the state sentencing process. My colleagues and I in the state legislature believe that modifying this process will contribute to the efficacy of the justice system. House Bill 86 seeks to address the inadequacies of Ohio’s sentencing practices, which currently cause prison overcrowding and place a heavy fiscal burden on taxpayers. This legislation is a package of reforms that will tackle the problems of recidivism and make spending on Ohio’s correctional system more affordable and effective.

House Bill 86 takes a variety of approaches toward sentencing reform. Currently, penalties for parole violations and failure to pay child support are rather inflexible and cause the state to overspend. House Bill 86 will allow for more sentencing options, from adjustable sanctions to various structured programs. Ohio can save tax dollars by offering alternatives to incarceration for these types of non-violent offenses.

Another reform included in the legislation involves raising the felony theft threshold. As the years pass, inflation inevitably increases, and the theft threshold should reflect this change in inflation. In 1996, the felony theft threshold was increased from $300 to $500, but it has not been updated since. Fifteen years later, the theft of $500 worth of property is not as serious of an offense as it was in 1996. House Bill 86 will raise the threshold to $1,000, an adjustment matching the 15-year increase in inflation. In this way, we can enroll offenders convicted of misdemeanor theft in community corrections programs and incarcerate persons convicted of more serious and dangerous crimes.

House Bill 86 will also encourage participation in certain programs approved by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. These programs include education courses, substance abuse treatment and job training. Excluding sex offenders, incarcerated individuals will have the opportunity to earn credit of one to five days toward their sentence per month of successfully completed coursework. Currently, prison sentences are primarily a means of punishment. However, it is also necessary to offer rehabilitation to offenders who eventually will be reintroduced to society. These efforts will help to reduce recidivism by giving inmates the tools to be productive citizens.

These and other sentencing changes provisioned in House Bill 86 will improve Ohio’s budget outlook and positively reform our justice system, while tackling crime in innovative ways. As a father and grandfather, I understand the paramount importance of keeping your children and families safe. With House Bill 86, we have the unique opportunity to both increase this safety and address the state budget gap, two steps in the right direction.


Post a Comment