A common-sense response to crime
The Post, 7/19/2011

As a nation and a society, we are obsessed with crime. It leads our local news stories, it's the central theme around many video and computer games, and it makes for some of the most entertaining movies. In a world that is getting smaller through the use of technology, it seems as though new crimes are created every day, and the opportunity to commit crime is higher than ever.

With more crime and more laws against it, significant problems can arise in regard to how costly and inefficient our criminal justice system can be. According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Ohio's prison population is expected to increase to 40 percent over capacity from the 33 percent over capacity that we currently have. Sentences are not consistent, those who are released from prison are returning, and tax dollars are being used inefficiently--proving that this is a system that must be reformed.

For this reason, the Ohio House recently crafted a series of significant and comprehensive sentencing reforms that will keep our communities safe, treat offenders fairly and streamline operations. House Bill 86, which was passed in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, cuts costs and provides for more confidence in the criminal justice system. It ensures that those who break the law are appropriately punished, but also that low-level offenders have the opportunity to be rehabilitated and successfully reintegrate into society.

Through this reform, offenders have greater incentive to participate in programs approved by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction such as job training, education classes, and substance abuse treatment. Additionally, they can receive a credit of one to five days for each month of coursework that they successfully finish. Opportunities such as these are what our prison population needs in order to reduce recidivism and stop costing Ohio's taxpayers more money.

The legislation also makes other common-sense solutions that are needed, such as increasing the felony theft threshold from $500 to $1,000. $500 today is not the same as it was when put into place 15 years ago, so it's necessary that changes like this are made. By doing so, we are better able to keep violent offenders off the streets and place those who commit misdemeanor violations in community corrections programs.

Crime causes painful effects in the lives of many Ohioans--not only for crime victims, but also for the family and friends of those who commit the offense. A more successful sentencing system, without squandering taxpayer dollars, makes absolute sense. These reforms highlight what a priority it is for our state to remain efficient while providing a safe environment for all Ohioans.


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