Criminal Justice

For decades, Ohio politicians sought to be “tough on crime” by increasing criminal penalties. Now our courts are overflowing and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold almost 51,000. Meanwhile, state and county budgets are strained by the resulting expenses and crime rates have not declined.

Ohio House Workers’ Compensation Bill Would Strip Undocumented Workers’ Rights

In Ohio, undocumented workers are often forced into hazardous workplaces in order to avoid scrutiny of their residency status in the United States. Many of their employers may also try to skirt federal guidelines for employee health and safety standards ...

In Ohio, undocumented workers are often forced into hazardous workplaces in order to avoid scrutiny of their residency status in the United States. Many of their employers may also try to skirt federal guidelines for employee health and safety standards or deny workers’ compensation claims for unauthorized employees who are hurt on the job.

Legislators in Ohio have attempted in several legislative sessions to deny workers’ compensation benefits for undocumented workers in hopes of discouraging employers who may want to hire them. One of these bills included language that an undocumented worker would have to prove their employer was fully aware they were unlawfully present in the United States before the worker could receive benefits. As a result, the burden of proof would fall upon the employee and not the employer. By denying undocumented workers this form of compensation, employers may knowingly hire these individuals and place them in the most hazardous occupations.

Instead of offering more protections to undocumented workers, who are already denied unemployment benefits and food assistance, the Ohio legislature has made numerous attempts to put them in even less safe working conditions. Denying workers’ compensation to undocumented immigrants would be an additional blow to an already vulnerable population. Unscrupulous employers should not be given a license to exploit workers they know cannot file injury claims.

 

The ACLU of Ohio issued a press release about this legislation in June 2017.

Painesville, OH Police and Immigration Enforcement

In May of 2017, the Painesville Police Department implemented an immigration enforcement policy in which they engaged in unlawful racial profiling against people of color, immigrant families, and individuals whose primary language is not English. Shortly after, the ACLU of Ohio ...

In May of 2017, the Painesville Police Department implemented an immigration enforcement policy in which they engaged in unlawful racial profiling against people of color, immigrant families, and individuals whose primary language is not English.

Shortly after, the ACLU of Ohio issued a press release urging the city of Painesville to scrap their new immigration policy.

In March of 2017, the Los Angeles Times published an article discussing that under the threat of aggressive immigration enforcement policies, immigrant communities in Los Angeles are now less likely to call police when victims of a crime.

Posted to Immigrant Rights, General Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice.

View our Prisons for Profit Landing Page!

In 2011, Ohio became the first, and is still the only, state to sell a prison to a private company. The short documentary "Prisons for Profit," produced by the ACLU of Ohio, examines the first 18 months after Corrections Corporation of ...

In 2011, Ohio became the first, and is still the only, state to sell a prison to a private company.

The short documentary “Prisons for Profit,” produced by the ACLU of Ohio, examines the first 18 months after Corrections Corporation of America purchased the Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LaECI) from the state of Ohio. The film chronicles the disturbing and oftentimes dangerous set of events that unfolded in the aftermath of that sale.

Visit the landing page for more information.

Disenfranchised Through Misinformation: Voting for People with Criminal Convictions

While Ohioans cannot vote while incarcerated for a felony conviction, people who have been convicted of a felony can vote after they are released, and people convicted of a misdemeanor or awaiting trial can cast absentee ballots while in jail. ...

While Ohioans cannot vote while incarcerated for a felony conviction, people who have been convicted of a felony can vote after they are released, and people convicted of a misdemeanor or awaiting trial can cast absentee ballots while in jail. Many are not aware of voting rights for people with criminal convictions. With thousands of Ohioans released from prison or jail, placed on probation, parole, or in a halfway house every year, it is critical to educate Ohioans on their voting rights.

 


Posted to Criminal Justice, Voting Rights, General Civil Liberties

Sanctuary Cities: A Civil Liberties Briefing

“Sanctuary city” is a term broadly applied to municipalities (as well as counties and states) that have adopted policies promising to serve and protect all of their residents, regardless of their immigration status. These policies can include not inquiring about ...

“Sanctuary city” is a term broadly applied to municipalities (as well as counties and states) that have adopted policies promising to serve and protect all of their residents, regardless of their immigration status. These policies can include not inquiring about a person’s resident status, only honoring detainer requests that are accompanied by a judicial warrant, or not requiring local law enforcement to enforce national immigration laws. The federal government is seeking to force local authorities to enforce Immigration and Customs Enforcement laws by threatening to cut off grants. Bullying municipalities through defunding is fundamentally wrong, and requiring cities to spend local tax dollars on federal law enforcement promotes distrust between police officers and the residents they serve and protect.

Further commentary: 

ACLU Urges Local Sheriffs to Reject Participation in Federal Immigration Enforcement

Organizing and Activism: It Takes All Kinds—The ACLU at Oberlin

Proposed Bill to Ban Sanctuary Cities is Unconstitutional, Says ACLU of Ohio

Immigration Facts Put Sanctuary Cities on the Right Side of History

“Alternative Facts” on Sanctuary Cities Will Hurt Our Communities

Posted to Immigrant Rights, General Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice.

Bail Reform: A Civil Liberties Briefing

Every day nearly 450,000 people languish in jail without ever being convicted of a crime. Ohio’s punitive bail system is costly, racially biased, counterproductive, and a key driver of mass incarceration. People suffer in local jails while awaiting trial, and ...

Every day nearly 450,000 people languish in jail without ever being convicted of a crime. Ohio’s punitive bail system is costly, racially biased, counterproductive, and a key driver of mass incarceration. People suffer in local jails while awaiting trial, and low-level offenses such as drug possession cause many working Ohioans to lose their jobs. Most importantly, putting bail out of reach for thousands of low-income people violates our fundamental principle of innocent until proven guilty. The ACLU of Ohio recommends reasonable and achievable reforms to end this unjust practice.

Read our resource Bail Reform: A Civil Liberties Briefing.


Posted to Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, General Civil Liberties, Juvenile Justice, Racial Justice.

New Legislation Further Criminalizes Drug Use, Adds to Prison Time

Ohio legislators feed mass incarceration by introducing bills that would send more people to our jails and prison for longer periods of time. Learn more about the Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline and our commentary about Ohio’s criminalizing drug ...

Ohio legislators feed mass incarceration by introducing bills that would send more people to our jails and prison for longer periods of time.

Learn more about the Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline and our commentary about Ohio’s criminalizing drug use and the War on Drugs.

This year, Ohio legislators have already introduced three bills that would expand penalties and sentences for drug use so far this year. SB 1, HB 4, and SB 42 further criminalize drug use, which should be treated through public health methods like rehabilitation, treatment, and education. These misguided bills continue to fill our already-overcrowded prisons and jails, without helping Ohioans.

SB 1: Revise Drug Laws

  • Primary Sponsor: Senator Frank LaRose (R)
  • Status: Approved by the Senate
  • Summary: SB 1 will increase penalties for fentanyl, including low-level possession, and treat mixtures added to fentanyl the same as fentanyl for sentencing purposes. Learn more.

HB 4: Prescribe how cocaine is to be measured for offense

  • Primary Sponsors: Representative Robert Cupp (R), Representative John Rogers (D)
  • Status: Passed House (97-0); Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Summary: HB 4 will change how cocaine is measured for determining trafficking and possession sentences, and treat mixtures added to cocaine (like baking soda) the same as cocaine for sentencing purposes. Learn more.

SB 42: Specify that referring to a drug also refers to compounds

  • Primary Sponsor: Senator John Eklund (R)
  • Status: As Introduced; Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Summary: SB 42 will expand drug offense penalties to compounds and mixtures – treating mixtures added to drugs the same as the actual drug. Learn more.

Posted to Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, General Civil Liberties, Juvenile Justice, Racial Justice.

ACLU of Ohio Report: Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017

Every session of the Ohio General Assembly, laws are introduced to create new crimes and enhance sentences for crimes already on the books. Now our jails and prisons are overflowing, and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold nearly 51,000. ...

Every session of the Ohio General Assembly, laws are introduced to create new crimes and enhance sentences for crimes already on the books. Now our jails and prisons are overflowing, and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold nearly 51,000. This is mass incarceration by a thousand cuts.

The ACLU of Ohio reviewed all 1,004 bills introduced during the 2015-2016 legislative session and found nearly 1 in 10 included language to lock more people up longer. Sixteen of these bills became law. We’re calling on Ohio’s General Assembly to stop acting as a factory that produces new crimes and longer sentences to support an uninterrupted flow of prisoners into a legal pipeline that ends in jail or prison. Read Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017.


Posted to Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, General Civil Liberties, Juvenile Justice, Racial Justice.

ACLU submits comments to end the criminalization of people living with HIV

Updated 10/24/2016: In January of 2016, the ACLU of Ohio urged the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee to remove laws criminalizing people living with HIV from our state’s criminal code [see below]. ...

Updated 10/24/2016: In January of 2016, the ACLU of Ohio urged the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee to remove laws criminalizing people living with HIV from our state’s criminal code [see below]. The Committee’s recently-released draft took positive steps towards this end – but it didn’t go far enough. Under the draft, transmitting HIV remains singled out and could be considered felony assault. There is no rational or medical reason to continue this stigma. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio has signed onto a letter from the Positive Justice Project, asking the Committee to end the criminalization of HIV completely.

Read Positive Justice Project’s October 2016 letter to the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee.

01.25.16

The ACLU of Ohio submitted comments to the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee urging them to end the criminalization of people living with HIV.

When these laws were enacted in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there was so much confusion about how the virus was transmitted, which lead to incredible fear and stigmatization. In 1995, a Texas inmate with HIV threatened prison guards and spat twice at them. He was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison. The Center for Disease Control indicates that HIV is not transmitted through saliva.

“The early days of the AIDS epidemic were terrifying,” wrote Adrienne Gavula, Regional Office Director for the ACLU of Ohio. “No one understood how this infection spread or what treatment worked. That fear of the unknown resulted in many bad laws being passed and bad policies being implemented. Thankfully, living with HIV today is much different than it was 30 years ago. However, the laws have not been changed to reflect medical advancements in our understanding and treatment of HIV.”

A 2003 study by Yale University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS indicated that these kinds of laws were ineffective in accomplishing perceived public health goals. Offenders were not deterred by the laws because, regardless of their HIV status, most cases already involved illegal activity, such as rape or assault. Public health goals do not justify the current system of prosecution and punishment.

“Because Ohio’s laws that criminalize HIV do not consider intent, risk of transmission, or even whether transmission actually occurred, and because the existence of such laws actually deters people from being tested, […] sections of the Ohio Revised Code should be updated to reflect modern best medical and public health practices and research. It is time that Ohio takes steps to reduce the spread of HIV rather than hinder efforts to combat the disease through outdated criminal laws.”

Criminalization only serves to extend the stigma already placed upon people living with HIV, it gives relatively long sentences (10-20 years) even when no infection has occurred, and it delays any testing and treatment that a person may receive because of the fear of being prosecuted.

Read the ACLU of Chio’s January 2016 letter  to the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee.

ACLU Recommendations for Reforms to Ohio Grand Jury System

In February of 2016 the Ohio Supreme Court created a Task Force to Examine Improvements to the Ohio Grand Jury System to address issues around grand jury proceedings for felony defendants and law enforcement officers who have been accused of ...

In February of 2016 the Ohio Supreme Court created a Task Force to Examine Improvements to the Ohio Grand Jury System to address issues around grand jury proceedings for felony defendants and law enforcement officers who have been accused of misconduct, wrongful death of citizens or illegal activities.

The ACLU has submitted recommendations to the Task Force to increase fairness and transparency in grand jury proceedings.

Recommendations include allowing the defendant’s attorney to present exculpatory evidence, evidence which is favorable to the defendant, before the grand jury. Such evidence would present a less biased view of the case and support the defendant’s claim to innocence. Another recommendation is to establish procedural standards such as allowing a judge to preside over the hearing. A fairly elected judge would provide objectivity to the case and allow the grand jury to make decisions independent of the prosecutor’s recommendations.

Read the ACLU’s full recommendations to the Ohio Supreme Court Grand Jury Task Force.

Get answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Ohio Grand Juries.

 

ACLU and OJPC Publish New Plan for Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform

We are currently experiencing a mass incarceration crisis in Ohio. The criminal justice system is being fundamentally misused to deal with problems like addiction, mental health and poverty. The results place a heavy burden on the state, in both the ...

We are currently experiencing a mass incarceration crisis in Ohio. The criminal justice system is being fundamentally misused to deal with problems like addiction, mental health and poverty. The results place a heavy burden on the state, in both the financial and human costs.

The ACLU of Ohio and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center released a new report detailing recommendations for criminal justice reform in Ohio. These recommendations will be presented to the Ohio General Assembly Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, which is currently tasked with rewriting a portion of Ohio’s criminal code.

Read “Looking Forward: A Comprehensive Plan for Criminal Justice Reform in Ohio.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

Our report offers recommendations that are a blueprint for long-term criminal justice reform in Ohio. The report highlights six broad categories that are ripe for reform:

  1. Limit Harsh, Automatic Punishments: criminal laws must address society’s specific needs rather than resorting to incarceration as the fallback position. Each case is different, and our laws need to reflect these differences.
  2. Prioritize Rehabilitation: Ohio’s mass incarceration system can no longer function as the state’s largest mental health provider. We must utilize rehabilitative programs rather than incarceration. Investing in rehabilitation can decrease the prison population and preserve public safety.
  3. Release Innocent People from Jail: too many people languish in our jails for low level offenses rather than being ticketed and released or because they cannot afford cash bail. These practices are expensive, unjust, and have significant racial disparities.
  4. Decriminalize Poverty: steep financial sanctions and court fees, criminalizing innocuous behavior, and punishing debt with more debt contributes to the cycle of debt and incarceration and criminalizes being poor.
  5. Limit Collateral Consequences: lasting penalties create barriers to reentry and keep people in poverty once they are released into the community.
  6. Reform Community Control: community control can be an effective alternative to incarceration. It allows people to remain in their communities while relieving our overextended jails and prisons. Ohio should prioritize using community control to reduce jail terms, as well as granting parole to those who deserve it.

The time for modest, incremental steps for criminal justice reform has passed us by. We must challenge ourselves to imagine a fundamentally different justice system that is truly just, and not merely focused on punishment. We must usher in an era of being smart on crime, not just tough on crime, where accountability does not mean punishment for punishment’s sake.

Read the full report to see how we can move toward a new justice system, one that lifts up the people of Ohio, rather than keeping them down.

Pay-to-Stay Jail Fees Undermine Successful Re-entry

Imagine being billed for your time in jail. This is a reality for many Ohioans. Pay-to-stay jail fees are the fees charged by local jails to people while they are incarcerated. Away from friends and family, missing time at work ...

Imagine being billed for your time in jail. This is a reality for many Ohioans. Pay-to-stay jail fees are the fees charged by local jails to people while they are incarcerated. Away from friends and family, missing time at work and school, people are then burdened with heavy debts after they have served their time.

A new ACLU of Ohio report, “In Jail & In Debt: Ohio’s Pay to Stay Fees,” details the prevalence of pay-to-stay fees across the state. More than half of jails, 40 of the 75, charge people for their incarceration through a booking fee, a daily fee, or both. Ohioans are getting billed up to $66.09 a day to be in jail.

Pay-to-stay fees feed cycles of debt and incarceration:

  • Incarcerated people are charged booking fees, daily fees, or a combination of both.
  • These charges may be taken from commissary accounts while incarcerated.
  • Upon release individuals receive bills totaling hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.
  • Many are unable to pay these debts and they are turned over to collections agencies.
  • Harassment from collections takes a toll on daily living and relationships.
  • Credit reports showing this debt significantly impact and restrict access to housing, employment, and education.

The justification for charging these fees is that counties might recoup some of the cost of incarceration, but this just is not true. The vast majority of people in jail are indigent and cannot pay steep fees, and several counties suspended these policies because they do not work.

Learn more and read the full report at www.acluohio.org/InJailInDebt.

Many in Ohio are turning away from outdated and dangerous ‘tough on crime’ policies that punish people to the detriment of our communities. Leaders are increasingly seeking new ways to reduce mass incarceration and support policies that will promote redemption and rehabilitation. Ending pay-to-stay jail fees will go a long way in doing that.

Ohio Lawmakers Undermining Criminal Sentencing Reform Initiative

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions are supporting a rather novel recommendation. They asked Ohio lawmakers ...

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions are supporting a rather novel recommendation.

They asked Ohio lawmakers not to introduce any bills that would place additional criminal penalties into state law, and freeze consideration of any related bills already introduced—at least until the 24-member Criminal Justice Recodification Committee completes its work in August 2016 and makes its recommendations on how to clean up Ohio’s overly complicated criminal code system.

A new ACLU of Ohio study, “Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline,” shows Ohio representatives and senators are actually undermining the efforts of the committee:

  • In just the first seven months of the 2015-16 legislative session, one in 11 bills introduced in the Ohio Senate would enhance, create, or expand criminal penalties.
  • It’s one in eight bills in the Ohio House for the corresponding period.
  • And this is a state in which more than 50,000 people are currently incarcerated in state prison—an unhealthy and dangerous 31 percent over our present prison capacity!

According to the report, “With more offenses accompanied by steep felony charges, more people—especially people of color—must bear the stigma of being a felon. This makes it nearly impossible to obtain housing, employment, and educational opportunities, relegating them to the outskirts of society. It is no surprise that many of these people, who have no hope nor prospects for the future, commit new crimes and are back in our prisons and jails. Ironically, while so-called ‘tough-on-crime’ laws might be intended to improve public safety, they only undermine it.”

Will the North Central Correctional Institution Become the Next Prison for Profit?

This week state lawmakers snuck through a bill permitting the sale of another state prison to a private, for-profit company, without any opportunity for public comment in either the Ohio House or Senate. The ACLU called on Governor John Kasich ...

This week state lawmakers snuck through a bill permitting the sale of another state prison to a private, for-profit company, without any opportunity for public comment in either the Ohio House or Senate. The ACLU called on Governor John Kasich to veto the legislation.

House Bill 238, which will allow the sale of the North Central Correctional Institution in Marion among other state-owned properties, was passed by the Senate, and the House concurred with the Senate’s changes. The prison sale was originally in House Bill 239 before being inserted into HB 238 by the Senate. The ACLU and other organizations had no chance to present testimony against the sale.

For more information, read our press release.

Cleveland Consent Decree: DOJ and City Reach Settlement on Police Reform

A consent decree is a settlement agreement. In 2013-2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) and found that many of the police department’s practices were not just bad, but also illegal and unconstitutional. ...

A consent decree is a settlement agreement. In 2013-2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) and found that many of the police department’s practices were not just bad, but also illegal and unconstitutional. For example, Cleveland police were regularly using too much force on residents, and weren’t properly looking into residents’ complaints of misbehavior. There were many other problems too that the DOJ discusses in its 58-page report.

The DOJ then took the City of Cleveland (which includes the police) to court over their unconstitutional practices, and with the help of a judge, the two of them worked out a settlement agreement, or consent decree. The City of Cleveland agreed to make many changes to its police department – and it had no other choice, considering how bad the problems were that the DOJ found. The consent decree is a 110-page document that outlines all the changes Cleveland must make to its police department.

A complete overview of the timeline, litigation, and resources about the Consent Decree is available.

After five months of negotiations, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the city of Cleveland have reached an agreement to reform the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) in the pattern or practice of using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The city of Cleveland has agreed to systematic changes in how its police officers and the community interact with one another. Major reforms in the settlement or “consent decree” include:

Creating a Community Police Commission that will promote greater engagement between Cleveland Police Department (CPD) and the many communities within Cleveland.

  • Adopting a comprehensive community policing model to strengthen community partnerships and collaborative problem solving.
  • Revising policies related to search, seizure, and detainment, and enhancing data collection on these interactions to identify incidents of racial profiling.
  • Revising policies on use of force, which will be overseen by the creation of a Force Review Board.
  • Making substantial changes to the Office of Professional Standards and the Police Review Board to ensure that all civilian complaints of police misconduct are thoroughly and effectively investigated.
  • Providing better crisis intervention training to officers.
  • Providing better mental health services and resources for officers.
  • Conducting a comprehensive equipment and resource study to assess current needs and priorities within the CDP.

An independent monitor approved by the federal court will oversee the CDP’s compliance for an initial term of five years.

For more information:

Read the summary of the DOJ-City of Cleveland Consent Decree.

Read the full consent decree. (large pdf)

Find out more about the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation.

Read our statement on the DOJ’s agreement with the City of Cleveland.

Check out our recommendations for Cleveland police reforms. 

ACLU of Ohio Takes Action to End Federal Prison Privatization in Youngstown

The ACLU of Ohio is urging the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to end its contract to house immigration prisoners with the private, for-profit prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in Youngstown. NEOCC’s ...

The ACLU of Ohio is urging the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to end its contract to house immigration prisoners with the private, for-profit prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in Youngstown. NEOCC’s contract to house immigration detainees expires in 2015. The call to drop the contract comes after the release of a new ACLU national report Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System.

Read Prisons for Profit: Ohio Prisoners Turn Into Dollar Signs

Prisons for profit are a multi-billion-dollar industry that depends on, and profits from, our national addiction to incarceration. Handing control of prisons over to for-profit corporations is a recipe for abuse, neglect, and misconduct. Private prisons create dangerous atmospheres with a severe lack of oversight and do little to encourage rehabilitation.

The ACLU of Ohio will continue to monitor this private prison and its treatment of incarcerated people.

Access Denied

For more than two decades, Siddique Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Keith LaMar and Greg Curry have claimed they are innocent of the crimes attributed to them during the 1993 prison uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF). These five men ...

For more than two decades, Siddique Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Keith LaMar and Greg Curry have claimed they are innocent of the crimes attributed to them during the 1993 prison uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF).

These five men accuse the state of coercing false testimony from other SOCF prisoners in order to convict them. They have spent years in solitary confinement, soliciting media attention in an attempt to convince the public—and ultimately the court system—that they do not belong where they are.

In response, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has created a de-facto ban on face-to-face media contact with these men, arguing that they are too much of a security risk to be allowed to tell their stories in person.

In late 2013, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit challenging this ban.

Learn more.

ACLU Asks ODRC to Save Lives and Money by Assisting People Leaving Jail with Medicaid Enrollment

Every day in Ohio, people leave jail without help or hope. Many are uninsured, unemployed, and struggling with substance abuse or mental illness. Without access to the help they need, they often end up right back behind bars. Other Medicaid expansion ...

Every day in Ohio, people leave jail without help or hope. Many are uninsured, unemployed, and struggling with substance abuse or mental illness. Without access to the help they need, they often end up right back behind bars.

Other Medicaid expansion states are working to enroll their jail, probation, and parole populations, and Ohio should do the same. With better access to the physical and mental healthcare they need, people can get healthy, rebuild their lives, and stay out of jail in the future.

Taxpayers will also benefit, because funding treatment and rehabilitation is much less expensive than subsidizing a never-ending cycle of illness and incarceration.

Helping people enroll in Medicaid when they leave jail will save lives and taxpayer dollars. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio is calling on the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) to require jails to assist those who are leaving with Medicaid enrollment.

Ohio Supreme Court Takes Steps to End Debtors’ Prison Practices

The Supreme Court of Ohio has distributed a new “bench card” to all of the state’s judges, giving much needed instructions to avoid the unconstitutional practice of sending people to jail when they owe the court fines and are unable ...

The Supreme Court of Ohio has distributed a new “bench card” to all of the state’s judges, giving much needed instructions to avoid the unconstitutional practice of sending people to jail when they owe the court fines and are unable to pay. The card lists the legal alternatives to jail, such as payment plans or forfeiting a driver’s license, as well as outlining the procedure for determining someone’s ability to pay.

These instructions result from The Outskirts of Hope, an ACLU of Ohio report that documented this unconstitutional practice in seven counties, and illustrated how debtors’ prison ruins lives and costs taxpayers. Courts in Georgia, Washington State, and many other states also use debtors’ prisons to collect fines. Ohio’s new bench card is the first of its kind in the country.

Jail Quotas Guarantee Profits for Private Prisons at Taxpayer Expense

On September 19, 2013, In the Public Interest, a national group that provides information on the impacts of privatization released a report entitled ...

On September 19, 2013, In the Public Interest, a national group that provides information on the impacts of privatization released a report entitled Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and “Low-Crime Taxes” Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations.

This report examines the way in which private prisons often write “bed quotas” or “low crime taxes” into their agreements with state governments. These agreements essentially guarantee profit by requiring the government to pay the company even if their prison cells are empty.

They also incentivize the overcrowding of prisons, which runs counter to the goals of the many states that are just now coming to grips with their mass incarceration crisis, including Ohio.

The report chronicles the failed privatization experiment at Ohio’s North Coast Correctional Treatment Facility in 2000, as well as the current debacle at Lake Erie Correctional Institution, which was sold to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in 2011 in a deal that included a 90% bed guarantee clause. To maximize profits, CCA immediately crowded as many inmates as possible into the facility, converting classroom space to make room for more beds and triple bunking inmates so that some were sleeping on the floor.  This overcrowding has led to deplorable living conditions and a spike in violence and smuggling activity that has spilled out into the community and put inmates and guards at risk.

The report also uncovers similar problems in Colorado and Arizona and concludes with a recommendation that states reject bed quota agreements, and the many negative consequences that come along with them.

Ohio Prisons Are Cutting Power to Make Money

Did you know that in the midst of a heat wave, up to 24 of Ohio's correctional institutions are shutting down their electricity in exchange for money from an energy contractor? Click here to learn more.

Did you know that in the midst of a heat wave, up to 24 of Ohio’s correctional institutions are shutting down their electricity in exchange for money from an energy contractor?

Click here to learn more.

Pay-To-Stay Jail Fees Just Don’t Add Up

Struggling local governments are turning to booking fees, daily housing fees, costs for clothing and even medical fees in the hopes of turning their jails into revenue generators. But these pay-to-stay policies cause more problems than they solve....

Struggling local governments are turning to booking fees, daily housing fees, costs for clothing and even medical fees in the hopes of turning their jails into revenue generators.

But these pay-to-stay policies cause more problems than they solve.

Click here to learn more.

CCA’s 30th Anniversary: Nothing to Celebrate

On May 16, 2013, Correction Corporation of America (CCA), one of America’s largest private prison companies, celebrated its 30th anniversary with stakeholders. Also this day, the ACLU of Ohio Northwest Chapter held its annual dinner, featuring a discussion about the growing ...

On May 16, 2013, Correction Corporation of America (CCA), one of America’s largest private prison companies, celebrated its 30th anniversary with stakeholders.

Also this day, the ACLU of Ohio Northwest Chapter held its annual dinner, featuring a discussion about the growing problems seen at CCA’s Ohio facility, Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LaECI). The event featured Mike Brickner, communications and public policy director, ACLU of Ohio. Mr. Brickner outlined the significant safety and security issues seen at Lake Erie Correctional Institution – the country’s only prison owned and operated by a private corporation.  Go to the audio and video podcasts of this event here.

Learn more about the Crisis in Conneaut, a timeline of the first 18 months of CCA’s ownership of LaECI.

Crisis in Conneaut

On April 9, 2013 the ACLU of Ohio released a timeline to state legislators and the public chronicling the first 18-months in the life of Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LaECI), the nation’s first prison sold to a for-profit company. The ...

On April 9, 2013 the ACLU of Ohio released a timeline to state legislators and the public chronicling the first 18-months in the life of Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LaECI), the nation’s first prison sold to a for-profit company.

The timeline tells the story of a facility that has rapidly become unsafe for inmates, employees, and the surrounding community.

Click here for more information.

The Outskirts of Hope

Update: In late April, 2013, the ACLU met with Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor on this issue. In June, the Ohio Supreme Court announced that it will increase efforts to educate local courts on how they ...

Update: In late April, 2013, the ACLU met with Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor on this issue. In June, the Ohio Supreme Court announced that it will increase efforts to educate local courts on how they should handle indigent defendants. These efforts will include a publication for judges, magistrates, and other court officials that lists the appropriate procedures for indigency hearings.

In February 2014, The Supreme Court of Ohio released a new “bench card” giving much needed instructions to Ohio judges to help them avoid debtors’ prison practices in their courtrooms. These instructions came as a result of The Outskirts of Hope, and the ACLU of Ohio’s subsequent meetings with Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor on this issue.

Update March 14, 2016: Following our attendance at a White House convening on the criminalization of poverty, the Department of Justice sent a letter to state Chief Justices and state court administrators calling on them to stop unconstitutional policies that have locked low-income people in a cycle of fines, debt and jail.


The Constitution prohibits courts from jailing those who can’t afford to pay their fines.

So does Ohio law.

Our courts are doing it anyway.

Click here to learn more.

Legislative Priority: Reduce the overflowing prison population

In the 2011-2012 session, legislators passed sentencing reform legislation, a good first step in criminal justice reform. However, Ohio prisons are still at 128% capacity. In a recent article, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Mohr predicted that overcrowding ...

In the 2011-2012 session, legislators passed sentencing reform legislation, a good first step in criminal justice reform. However, Ohio prisons are still at 128% capacity. In a recent article, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Mohr predicted that overcrowding could rise to 154.1%, if the department were to take a 10% budget cut[1].

The ACLU of Ohio recommends the following policy changes which will reduce the prison population:

  • Increase the number of earned credit opportunities for eligible inmates.[2]
  • Increase diversion of low-level non-violent offenders into substance abuse and mental health programs.
  • Release aging state prisoners who pose no substantial public safety threat through age-based parole programs.
  • Increase educational and rehabilitative programming in prison to jumpstart the reentry process and ensure lower recidivism rates.

[1] Johnson, A (December 10, 2012). Four Ohio prisons face possibility of closure under budget cuts. The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved from http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/12/10/five-ohio-prisons-face-possibility-of-closure-under-budget-cuts.html

[2] Johnson, A. (January 7, 2013). Drug use in Ohio’s prisons spiked in ’12. The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved from http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/01/07/drug-use-in-ohios-prisons-spiked-in-12.html

Debtor’s Prisons Alive and Well in Ohio

Incarcerating a person simply because he or she cannot afford to pay court costs and fines is prohibited by state law and unconstitutional. The ACLU of Ohio has questioned one Erie County judge ...

Incarcerating a person simply because he or she cannot afford to pay court costs and fines is prohibited by state law and unconstitutional. The ACLU of Ohio has questioned one Erie County judge about his practice of jailing defendants who cannot or do not pay fines or fees, and has also spoken out against pay-to-stay jail schemes in Summit County, Monroe County, and Franklin County.

In October 2010, the ACLU released “In For A Penny”, a startling new report that profiles five states — including Ohio — that imprison people because they cannot pay fines. The report highlights the negative consequences for budgets and public safety, noting that jailing one person for 30 days costs more than $1500, causes disruptions in employment, and can contribute to recidivism.

Reforming Ohio’s broken criminal justice system

The Ohio legislature took an important first step toward fixing our bloated system in passing House Bill 86. HB 86 made needed changes to the juvenile justice system and addresses Ohio's overcrowded prison system by: Increasing the number of ...

The Ohio legislature took an important first step toward fixing our bloated system in passing House Bill 86. HB 86 made needed changes to the juvenile justice system and addresses Ohio’s overcrowded prison system by:

  • Increasing the number of days prisoners can earn towards early release in return for participating in educational and vocational training programs;
  • Eliminating the crack-cocaine sentencing disparity;
  • Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for many low-level drug crimes;
  • Increasing diversion programs for low-level drug offenders in lieu of conviction;
  • Raising the threshold used in determining penalties in theft-related crimes; and
  • Providing diversion programs for child support violators.

HB 86 enacts many of the commonsense reforms suggested in the ACLU of Ohio report, “Reform Cannot Wait: A Comprehensive Examination of the Cost of Incarceration in Ohio from 1991-2010.” The legislation also begins to address some of the concerns the ACLU of Ohio highlighted in “Overcharging, Overspending, Overlooking: Cuyahoga County’s Costly War on Drugs.”

Cell Phone Searches

In 2009, The Ohio Supreme Court became the first state supreme court in the U.S. to rule that police need a warrant to search the contents ...

In 2009, The Ohio Supreme Court became the first state supreme court in the U.S. to rule that police need a warrant to search the contents of cell phones in State v. Antwuan Smith. The ACLU filed a legal brief in support of the defendant’s privacy rights.

The state of Ohio’s mental health treatment system

The Columbus Dispatch reported on the near collapse of Ohio’s mental health system and challenges it may face during 2011 budget cuts. Read the articles here and here.

The Columbus Dispatch reported on the near collapse of Ohio’s mental health system and challenges it may face during 2011 budget cuts. Read the articles here and here.

For decades, Ohio politicians sought to be “tough on crime” by increasing criminal penalties. Now our courts are overflowing and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold almost 51,000. Meanwhile, state and county budgets are strained by the resulting expenses and crime rates have not declined.

Cleveland Consent Decree: DOJ and City Reach Settlement on Police Reform

A consent decree is a settlement agreement. In 2013-2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) and found that many of the police department’s practices were not just bad, but also illegal and unconstitutional. ...

A consent decree is a settlement agreement. In 2013-2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) and found that many of the police department’s practices were not just bad, but also illegal and unconstitutional. For example, Cleveland police were regularly using too much force on residents, and weren’t properly looking into residents’ complaints of misbehavior. There were many other problems too that the DOJ discusses in its 58-page report.

The DOJ then took the City of Cleveland (which includes the police) to court over their unconstitutional practices, and with the help of a judge, the two of them worked out a settlement agreement, or consent decree. The City of Cleveland agreed to make many changes to its police department – and it had no other choice, considering how bad the problems were that the DOJ found. The consent decree is a 110-page document that outlines all the changes Cleveland must make to its police department.

A complete overview of the timeline, litigation, and resources about the Consent Decree is available.

After five months of negotiations, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the city of Cleveland have reached an agreement to reform the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) in the pattern or practice of using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The city of Cleveland has agreed to systematic changes in how its police officers and the community interact with one another. Major reforms in the settlement or “consent decree” include:

Creating a Community Police Commission that will promote greater engagement between Cleveland Police Department (CPD) and the many communities within Cleveland.

  • Adopting a comprehensive community policing model to strengthen community partnerships and collaborative problem solving.
  • Revising policies related to search, seizure, and detainment, and enhancing data collection on these interactions to identify incidents of racial profiling.
  • Revising policies on use of force, which will be overseen by the creation of a Force Review Board.
  • Making substantial changes to the Office of Professional Standards and the Police Review Board to ensure that all civilian complaints of police misconduct are thoroughly and effectively investigated.
  • Providing better crisis intervention training to officers.
  • Providing better mental health services and resources for officers.
  • Conducting a comprehensive equipment and resource study to assess current needs and priorities within the CDP.

An independent monitor approved by the federal court will oversee the CDP’s compliance for an initial term of five years.

For more information:

Read the summary of the DOJ-City of Cleveland Consent Decree.

Read the full consent decree. (large pdf)

Find out more about the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation.

Read our statement on the DOJ’s agreement with the City of Cleveland.

Check out our recommendations for Cleveland police reforms. 

ACLU of Ohio Takes Action to End Federal Prison Privatization in Youngstown

The ACLU of Ohio is urging the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to end its contract to house immigration prisoners with the private, for-profit prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in Youngstown. NEOCC’s ...

The ACLU of Ohio is urging the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to end its contract to house immigration prisoners with the private, for-profit prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in Youngstown. NEOCC’s contract to house immigration detainees expires in 2015. The call to drop the contract comes after the release of a new ACLU national report Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System.

Read Prisons for Profit: Ohio Prisoners Turn Into Dollar Signs

Prisons for profit are a multi-billion-dollar industry that depends on, and profits from, our national addiction to incarceration. Handing control of prisons over to for-profit corporations is a recipe for abuse, neglect, and misconduct. Private prisons create dangerous atmospheres with a severe lack of oversight and do little to encourage rehabilitation.

The ACLU of Ohio will continue to monitor this private prison and its treatment of incarcerated people.

Access Denied

For more than two decades, Siddique Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Keith LaMar and Greg Curry have claimed they are innocent of the crimes attributed to them during the 1993 prison uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF). These five men ...

For more than two decades, Siddique Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Keith LaMar and Greg Curry have claimed they are innocent of the crimes attributed to them during the 1993 prison uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF).

These five men accuse the state of coercing false testimony from other SOCF prisoners in order to convict them. They have spent years in solitary confinement, soliciting media attention in an attempt to convince the public—and ultimately the court system—that they do not belong where they are.

In response, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has created a de-facto ban on face-to-face media contact with these men, arguing that they are too much of a security risk to be allowed to tell their stories in person.

In late 2013, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit challenging this ban.

Learn more.

Jail Quotas Guarantee Profits for Private Prisons at Taxpayer Expense

On September 19, 2013, In the Public Interest, a national group that provides information on the impacts of privatization released a report entitled ...

On September 19, 2013, In the Public Interest, a national group that provides information on the impacts of privatization released a report entitled Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and “Low-Crime Taxes” Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations.

This report examines the way in which private prisons often write “bed quotas” or “low crime taxes” into their agreements with state governments. These agreements essentially guarantee profit by requiring the government to pay the company even if their prison cells are empty.

They also incentivize the overcrowding of prisons, which runs counter to the goals of the many states that are just now coming to grips with their mass incarceration crisis, including Ohio.

The report chronicles the failed privatization experiment at Ohio’s North Coast Correctional Treatment Facility in 2000, as well as the current debacle at Lake Erie Correctional Institution, which was sold to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in 2011 in a deal that included a 90% bed guarantee clause. To maximize profits, CCA immediately crowded as many inmates as possible into the facility, converting classroom space to make room for more beds and triple bunking inmates so that some were sleeping on the floor.  This overcrowding has led to deplorable living conditions and a spike in violence and smuggling activity that has spilled out into the community and put inmates and guards at risk.

The report also uncovers similar problems in Colorado and Arizona and concludes with a recommendation that states reject bed quota agreements, and the many negative consequences that come along with them.

Criminal Law Reform Project

The Criminal Law Reform Project is a division of the national ACLU. Our goal is to put an end to excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration and stand in the way of a just and equal society. Founded ...

The Criminal Law Reform Project is a division of the national ACLU. Our goal is to put an end to excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration and stand in the way of a just and equal society.

Founded in 1998 and formerly known as the Drug Law Reform Project, the Project focuses its work at the “front end” of the criminal justice system, from policing to sentencing, with an emphasis on ending our nation’s punitive drug policies, which have failed to achieve public safety and health while putting unprecedented numbers of people behind bars and eroding constitutional rights. We fulfill our mission through strategic litigation and advocacy that promotes reform of the criminal justice system and drug laws in particular, reduces the number of people entering the system, and protects the constitutional rights of those in the system.

Read more about the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, including “Safe Communities, Fair Sentences” the ACLU’s campaign to end mass incarceration.

For decades, Ohio politicians sought to be “tough on crime” by increasing criminal penalties. Now our courts are overflowing and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold almost 51,000. Meanwhile, state and county budgets are strained by the resulting expenses and crime rates have not declined.

Juvenile Justice Advocates Urge Ohio Supreme Court to Ensure All Children Have Access to Counsel

COLUMBUS — Today, the Ohio Public ...
Criminal Justice

COLUMBUS — Today, the Ohio Public Defender, ACLU of Ohio, and Children’s Law Center sent a letter urging the Supreme Court of Ohio to increase protections for children in the juvenile justice system regarding the right to appointed counsel. In 2012, the groups led a successful effort to require that children facing a felony charge at least consult with an attorney before being permitted to waive that right. Now they are calling on the Court to expand it to all cases in which a child might risk being placed outside the home.

“No child should navigate the juvenile delinquency system without the benefit of counsel, regardless of where they live or the nature of the charge. Ohio courts have come a long way in ensuring this happens, but this proposed rule levels the playing field for all kids,” said Kim Tandy, executive director of the Children’s Law Center.

The letter comes on the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in In re Gault, which sets forth the principle that children have a constitutional right to counsel. This decision paved the way for children to have critical rights in juvenile court. But, in some jurisdictions in the U.S., children still appear in court without an attorney. And that includes Ohio.

“Every child deserves counsel, no matter their or their family’s financial means,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director of the ACLU of Ohio. “Cases in the juvenile system can be complex because of each child’s individual needs, family relationships, or other dynamics. Every court in Ohio should start with the idea that all children will have an appointed attorney to ensure no young person falls through the cracks.”

Current court rules still allow many children on less serious charges to waive the right to counsel without even talking to a lawyer. It is estimated that of the 77,771 juvenile cases disposed of in courts across Ohio in 2015, between 28-42% of youth proceeded without counsel. While this represents an improvement, the data shows a wide disparity in waiver rates among counties. Juvenile cases have dropped nearly 50% since 2004, and in many counties, including several large jurisdictions, all kids already get lawyers.

“Fifty years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Gault, we still have kids making snap decisions that can impact their lives for years without the benefit of having a lawyer. It is important that a child has a lawyer to review the charges, explain the court proceedings, and most importantly, speak for them in court – be the child’s advocate. That is how our system of justice was intended to work,” said Jill Beeler, Deputy Director of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender.

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Read the letter to the Ohio Supreme Court

Additional documents:

Proposed changes to Juvenile Rule 3

Estimated waiver rates by county

Letter of support, National Juvenile Defender Center

ACLU Urges Washington Court House to End Unjust Citing of Individuals who have Overdosed

CLEVELAND—The American Civil Liberties Union of ...
Criminal Justice

CLEVELAND—The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter today to the City of Washington Court House, urging it to end its unjust practice of charging individuals who overdose on heroin under Ohio’s Inducing Panic law. A conviction under the law may lead to a sentence of 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

“This policy discourages people from calling for help when their loved one or neighbor is experiencing an overdose. It’s dangerous,” said Elizabeth Bonham, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Ohio. “We cannot punish our way out of this opioid crisis. Charging victims of overdose with a crime is a perfect example of how not to deal with our opioid problem in Ohio.”

According to news reports, Washington Court House began charging individuals who overdosed with inducing panic beginning in February 2017. Public records obtained by the ACLU of Ohio show that at least 12 people have been charged so far.

“Officials may have good intentions, but we know that piling on fines and jail time to treat drug use just doesn’t work. Beyond that, using the inducing panic statute to charge these individuals is unlawful,” added Bonham.

“By further punishing individuals who have already suffered from an overdose, the City of Washington Court House is advocating criminalization over treatment. We are calling on the City to end this practice,” concluded Bonham.

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Read the letter to the city of Washington Court House

Bail Reform: A Civil Liberties Briefing

Every day nearly 450,000 people languish in jail without ever being convicted of a crime. Ohio’s punitive bail system is costly, racially biased, counterproductive, and a key driver of mass incarceration. People suffer in local jails while awaiting trial, and ...

Every day nearly 450,000 people languish in jail without ever being convicted of a crime. Ohio’s punitive bail system is costly, racially biased, counterproductive, and a key driver of mass incarceration. People suffer in local jails while awaiting trial, and low-level offenses such as drug possession cause many working Ohioans to lose their jobs. Most importantly, putting bail out of reach for thousands of low-income people violates our fundamental principle of innocent until proven guilty. The ACLU of Ohio recommends reasonable and achievable reforms to end this unjust practice.

Read our resource Bail Reform: A Civil Liberties Briefing.


Posted to Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, General Civil Liberties, Juvenile Justice, Racial Justice.

New Legislation Further Criminalizes Drug Use, Adds to Prison Time

Ohio legislators feed mass incarceration by introducing bills that would send more people to our jails and prison for longer periods of time. Learn more about the Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline and our commentary about Ohio’s criminalizing drug ...

Ohio legislators feed mass incarceration by introducing bills that would send more people to our jails and prison for longer periods of time.

Learn more about the Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline and our commentary about Ohio’s criminalizing drug use and the War on Drugs.

This year, Ohio legislators have already introduced three bills that would expand penalties and sentences for drug use so far this year. SB 1, HB 4, and SB 42 further criminalize drug use, which should be treated through public health methods like rehabilitation, treatment, and education. These misguided bills continue to fill our already-overcrowded prisons and jails, without helping Ohioans.

SB 1: Revise Drug Laws

  • Primary Sponsor: Senator Frank LaRose (R)
  • Status: Approved by the Senate
  • Summary: SB 1 will increase penalties for fentanyl, including low-level possession, and treat mixtures added to fentanyl the same as fentanyl for sentencing purposes. Learn more.

HB 4: Prescribe how cocaine is to be measured for offense

  • Primary Sponsors: Representative Robert Cupp (R), Representative John Rogers (D)
  • Status: Passed House (97-0); Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Summary: HB 4 will change how cocaine is measured for determining trafficking and possession sentences, and treat mixtures added to cocaine (like baking soda) the same as cocaine for sentencing purposes. Learn more.

SB 42: Specify that referring to a drug also refers to compounds

  • Primary Sponsor: Senator John Eklund (R)
  • Status: As Introduced; Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Summary: SB 42 will expand drug offense penalties to compounds and mixtures – treating mixtures added to drugs the same as the actual drug. Learn more.

Posted to Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, General Civil Liberties, Juvenile Justice, Racial Justice.

ACLU of Ohio Report: Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017

Every session of the Ohio General Assembly, laws are introduced to create new crimes and enhance sentences for crimes already on the books. Now our jails and prisons are overflowing, and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold nearly 51,000. ...

Every session of the Ohio General Assembly, laws are introduced to create new crimes and enhance sentences for crimes already on the books. Now our jails and prisons are overflowing, and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold nearly 51,000. This is mass incarceration by a thousand cuts.

The ACLU of Ohio reviewed all 1,004 bills introduced during the 2015-2016 legislative session and found nearly 1 in 10 included language to lock more people up longer. Sixteen of these bills became law. We’re calling on Ohio’s General Assembly to stop acting as a factory that produces new crimes and longer sentences to support an uninterrupted flow of prisoners into a legal pipeline that ends in jail or prison. Read Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017.


Posted to Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, General Civil Liberties, Juvenile Justice, Racial Justice.

Proposed New Crimes And Penalties Undermine Legislature’s Criminal Justice Reform Efforts, Say ACLU

COLUMBUS—A new ACLU of Ohio report, ...
Criminal Justice

COLUMBUS—A new ACLU of Ohio report, issued today, finds that Ohio legislators introduced nearly 100 bills in the last legislative session to send more people to already overcrowded prisons and jails. The report, Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017, highlights that the Ohio General Assembly is damaging their own multi-year effort to simplify the criminal code by lengthening prison and jail sentences and proposing new criminal offenses.

“This should be a wake-up call for legislators,” says Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist of the ACLU of Ohio. “We can’t expect criminal justice reform to succeed if legislators are constantly funneling more people into an already overflowing statehouse-to-prison pipeline.” The report identifies that one in nine bills in the House and one in 15 bills in the Senate contained some form of sentencing enhancement.

“We need to focus on what’s gone terribly wrong with our criminal justice system,” said Daniels. “Mass incarceration is ruining lives, neighborhoods and communities, especially for people of color. Until the Recodification Committee finishes its work, there should be no more bills that add new crimes or penalties,” continued Daniels.

The report, Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017, calls for a series of reforms, including a freeze on sentence enhancements, at least until the work of the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee is completed later this session.

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The report is available at www.acluohio.org/statehouse-to-prison-2017.

Read our 2015 report.

Protesting? #KnowYourRights

Learn about our newest challenges, current battles, and recent victories in our February 2016 Snapshot

Blog Post » The Cost of Unconstitutional and Ineffective Policing

ACLU Comment on U.S. Department of Justice Probe of Cleveland Police Department

CLEVELAND, Ohio—The ACLU of Ohio has issued a statement on the U.S. Department of Justice’s conclusions on the investigation of the Cleveland Police Department’s use of excessive force. "Today's announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice is not a surprise to ...

CLEVELAND, Ohio—The ACLU of Ohio has issued a statement on the U.S. Department of Justice’s conclusions on the investigation of the Cleveland Police Department’s use of excessive force.

“Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice is not a surprise to many greater Clevelanders,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director for the ACLU of Ohio. “Unfortunately, problems with police-community relations and the excessive use of force by law enforcement has been an enduring concern in our community. We must use this opportunity to reform a police system that has led to many people of color who feel unsafe and unfairly treated by those who are supposed to protect and serve them. Our police department should be one that is marked by maturity, restraint, and trust that comes from proper training and supervision that keeps everyone safe. The ACLU of Ohio will continue to monitor the negotiations between the Department of Justice and city of Cleveland. It is our hope that reforms adopted will be systemic and promote fairness and justice for all Clevelanders.”

Blog Post » Treating Our Addiction to Mass Criminalization

Blog Post » You Are Never Too Young To Ask For an Attorney

Blog Post » What is Shackling?

Blog Post » Juvenile Justice: The Return on Investment

Blog Post » Ending ‘Adultification’ and the One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Shackling

Criminal Justice Experts Release Report » Ending Mass Incarceration: Charting a New Justice Reinvestment

HB 477 – Prosecutor Right to Appeal (2011-2012)

HB 477 clarifies the people who have the power to appeal criminal decisions and allows the prosecution the right to delayed appeals.

HB 477 clarifies the people who have the power to appeal criminal decisions and allows the prosecution the right to delayed appeals.

ACLU of Ohio Reports

Contact us about receiving print copies of publications, or visit the national ACLU website if you don't see what you're looking for. ...

NEW REPORT: Teens in Solitary Confinement

CLEVELAND – Young people are held in solitary confinement in jails and prisons in across the United States, often for weeks or months at a time, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch said in a report released ...

CLEVELAND – Young people are held in solitary confinement in jails and prisons in across the United States, often for weeks or months at a time, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 141-page report, “Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States,” is based on research in both US jails and prisons, and correspondence with young people in several states including Ohio. The isolation of solitary confinement causes anguish, provokes serious mental and physical health problems, and works against rehabilitation for teenagers, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU found.

“Locking kids in solitary confinement with little or no contact with other people is cruel, harmful and unnecessary,” said Ian Kysel, Aryeh Neier Fellow with Human Rights Watch and the ACLU and author of the report. “Normal human interaction is essential to the healthy development and rehabilitation of young people; to cut that off helps nobody.”

The report is based on interviews and correspondence more than 125 young people in 19 states who spent time in solitary confinement while under age 18 as well as with jail and/or prison officials in 10 states.

Human Rights Watch and the ACLU estimate that in 2011, more than 95,000 young people under age 18 were held in prisons and jails. A significant number of these facilities use solitary confinement—for days, weeks, months, or even years—to punish, protect, house, or to treat some of the young people held there.

Because young people are still developing, traumatic experiences like solitary confinement may have a profound effect on their chance to rehabilitate and grow, the groups found. Solitary confinement can exacerbate short and long-term mental health problems or make it more likely that such problems will develop. Young people in solitary confinement are routinely denied access to treatment, services, and programming required to meet their medical, psychological, developmental, social, and rehabilitative needs.

Young people interviewed for the report repeatedly described how solitary confinement compounded the stress of being in jail or prison. They spoke about cutting themselves with staples or razors while in solitary confinement; having hallucinations, and losing touch with reality. Several said they had attempted suicide multiple times in solitary confinement.

Those allowed outside described only being allowed to exercise in small metal cages, alone, a few times a week. Several said they could not get books, magazines, paper, pens, or pencils, or attend any classes or programming. For some, the hardest part about solitary confinement was being denied visits and not being able to hug their mother or father.

The solitary confinement of young people under age 18 is itself a serious human rights violation and can constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under international human rights law, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU said. Conditions that compound the harm of solitary confinement, such as denial of educational programming, exercise, or family visits, often constitute independent, serious human rights violations.

“No one believes that locking a teenager in a closet is an effective way to improve either their behavior or their character, much less to protect them long term,” said ACLU of Ohio Policy Director Shakyra Diaz. “Young people have rights and needs that are different from adults; jail and prison practices should reflect those differences and promote their ability to grow and change – we should invest in youth, not banish them.”

A number of corrections officials have begun to recognize and speak against the use of solitary confinement, saying that it is costly, ineffective, and harmful.

There are alternative ways to address the problems—whether disciplinary, administrative, protective, or medical—that officials typically cite to justify using solitary confinement, while taking into account the rights and special needs of adolescents, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU said. Youth could be housed in specialized facilities organized to encourage positive behavior. And punishment should be proportional to the infraction, using any short-term isolation as a rare exception.

The federal and state governments should ban placing youth in solitary confinement, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU said. They should also prohibit housing adolescents with adults or in jails and prisons designed to house adults, and strictly regulate and monitor all forms of isolation of young people.

“Growing Up Locked Down,” as well as additional materials including a video, podcast and multimedia feature, can be found online at www.aclu.org/growinguplockeddown.

In re M.W.

In re CP (amicus) – Adam Walsh Act (SB 10) Sex Offender Registration and Notification Case

In re D.J.S. – Adam Walsh Act (SB 10) Sex Offender Registration and Notification Case

HB 457 – Electronic Monitoring Fees (2011-2012)

This bill will authorize a sheriff whose office is electronically monitoring a youth or adult offender to charge the offender a fee for the monitoring.

This bill will authorize a sheriff whose office is electronically monitoring a youth or adult offender to charge the offender a fee for the monitoring.

HB 524 – Collateral Sanctions Revision (2011-2012)

HB 524 and its companion bill, SB 337, are efforts to continue the work of HB 86 in criminal justice reform. The scope of the reforms is broad and address a range of issues of importance to both the adult ...

HB 524 and its companion bill, SB 337, are efforts to continue the work of HB 86 in criminal justice reform. The scope of the reforms is broad and address a range of issues of importance to both the adult ex-offenders and those involved in the juvenile system including:

  • Broadening the ability of ex-offenders to obtain various licenses for employment
  • Reducing driver’s license suspensions in sentencing
  • Reassessing financial barriers to re-entry, like license reinstatements, to permit installment payments
  • Expanding protections to ensure youth are separated from adults when they are in custody
  • Increasing the minimum age that a person may be held in adult prisons and similar adult facilities from 18 to 21

SB 337 – Collateral Sanctions Revision (2011-2012)

SB 337 and its companion bill, HB 524, are efforts to continue the work of HB 86 in criminal justice reform. The scope of the reforms is broad and address a range of issues of importance to both the adult ...

SB 337 and its companion bill, HB 524, are efforts to continue the work of HB 86 in criminal justice reform. The scope of the reforms is broad and address a range of issues of importance to both the adult ex-offenders and those involved in the juvenile system including:

  • Broadening the ability of ex-offenders to obtain various licenses for employment
  • Reducing driver’s license suspensions in sentencing
  • Reassessing financial barriers to re-entry, like license reinstatements, to permit installment payments
  • Expanding protections to ensure youth are separated from adults when they are in custody
  • Increasing the minimum age that a person may be held in adult prisons and similar adult facilities from 18 to 21

Letter Urges Ohio Legislature to Convene, Consider Reforms to Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems

COLUMBUS - Today, 43 signatories sent a letter to Gov. Strickland, Senate President Harris, and Speaker Budish, urging them to convene the 128th General Assembly to consider Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 235. “These two pieces of legislation would make ...

COLUMBUS – Today, 43 signatories sent a letter to Gov. Strickland, Senate President Harris, and Speaker Budish, urging them to convene the 128th General Assembly to consider Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 235.

“These two pieces of legislation would make widely-supported, commonsense changes to Ohio’s criminal and juvenile justice systems that would save the State of Ohio millions of dollars each year while having no adverse, and likely a positive, impact on public safety,” the letter states.

SB 22, sponsored by State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), makes numerous reforms to Ohio’s criminal justice system, including raising the threshold amount for felony theft, eliminating sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenses, and modifying the intervention in lieu of conviction process.

SB 22 was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice in June 2009 and has languished ever since, despite bipartisan support.

HB 235, sponsored by State Rep. Tracy Heard (D-Columbus), would restore judicial discretion to several areas of juvenile delinquency law, including bindover, serious youthful offender proceedings, and gun specifications.

The letter emphasized the financial benefits Ohio would see from the passage of these two bills: “[W]ith Ohio facing a budget deficit anticipated to be $4–8 billion, it is imperative that we begin to enact cost-saving measures now. If SB 22 and HB 235 are enacted before the end of the year, Ohio can start realizing the cost savings of the two bills before the next biennial budget is adopted.”

The fiscal note for SB 22, prepared by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, estimates that the state could save $13.7 million annually if SB 22 is enacted. A fiscal note has not been prepared for HB 235, but an analysis by the Ohio Poverty Law Center estimates that had HB 235 been in effect, Ohio could have saved $16 million in fiscal year 2010, had each juvenile court judge and magistrate sentenced just one juvenile who was incarcerated in an Ohio Department of Youth Services facility to a community-based facility, instead.

For decades, Ohio politicians sought to be “tough on crime” by increasing criminal penalties. Now our courts are overflowing and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold almost 51,000. Meanwhile, state and county budgets are strained by the resulting expenses and crime rates have not declined.

HB 228 – Regards Self-Defense and Handling Firearms (2017-2018)

The bill removes restrictions in the areas of self-defense and carrying concealed weapons penalties. It seeks to increase protections for those who use a firearm in self-defense by (a) introducing a “Stand Your Ground” provision that expands the locations at which ...

The bill removes restrictions in the areas of self-defense and carrying concealed weapons penalties.

It seeks to increase protections for those who use a firearm in self-defense by (a) introducing a “Stand Your Ground” provision that expands the locations at which a person has no duty to retreat before using force from just one’s residence and vehicle to any place a person is lawfully present, and (b) shifting the burden of disproving a self-defense assertion from the defense to the prosecution.

The bill also modifies the Concealed Handgun Licensing Law by eliminating a licensee’s duty to keep the their hand in plain sight if impracticable, reducing the penalties for illegally carrying a concealed firearm or improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle, and eliminating the requirement of posting warning signs regarding the possession of weapons on specified premises.

ACLU Urges Cities to Reconsider Partnership with DOJ

TOLEDO, OH—The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced ...
Police Car

TOLEDO, OH—The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced the creation of the National Public Safety Partnership (PSP) – a program aimed to aid 12 cities in fighting crime, drug trafficking, and gang violence. Toledo and Cincinnati are two of the 12 cities that have been selected to “receive significant assistance.”

“Under this administration, the DOJ has initiated a number of alarming changes that are damaging and counter-productive for the public’s well-being,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director with the ACLU of Ohio. “Harsh penalties for drug possession, investment in private prisons, and local enforcement of immigration policies are all tactics which do more harm than good,” added Brickner.

The PSP was established in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, which emphasizes the role of the DOJ in combating violent crime.

“Violence in our communities is an issue that deserves thoughtful and compassionate solutions. However, reliance on failed mass incarceration strategies to combat violent crime has not helped our communities in the past and it will not work this time either. We need to adopt strategies that hold perpetrators of violence accountable without further damaging families and neighborhoods through mass incarceration,” added Brickner.

“The DOJ’s policies are just a rehashing of failed tactics like the ‘War on Crime,’ the ‘War on Drugs’ and ‘Broken Windows’ policing,” said Brickner. “We need a DOJ which implements initiatives that do not use dragnet style policing, aggressive enforcement of drug laws, and targeting of vulnerable communities.”

The ACLU of Ohio has sent letters to Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo and Mayor John Cranley of Cincinnati, urging them to reconsider their partnerships with the DOJ.

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Read the letters to Toledo and Cincinnati.

ACLU Urges Painesville Police Department to Scrap New Immigration Policy

CLEVELAND— The American Civil ...
Barbed wire and flag

CLEVELAND— The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter today to the Painesville Police Department urging it to discontinue its new policy that directs police to engage in unlawful racial profiling against people of color, immigrant families, and individuals whose primary language is not English. The policy wrongly guides local police officers to enforce federal immigration law.

“This policy makes the entire Painesville community—especially its many immigrant families—less safe,” said Elizabeth Bonham, staff attorney at the ACLU of Ohio. “Local police should be seen as a resource for the entire community, but by enforcing federal immigration laws, victims of crimes who are undocumented, or those victims who have family or friends without citizenship status, will be less likely to seek police help.”

Painesville Police Chief Anthony Powalie implemented this policy earlier this month. In 2007 Painesville City Council passed an ordinance declaring that Painesville was not a sanctuary city, and that the Lake County Jail leaves the decision up to local communities. But under federal law, immigration enforcement is reserved to the federal government, not for local police.

“Immigration enforcement is a federal issue, not a local or state one, and federal law does not require police to notify ICE about community members’ suspected citizenship status,” noted Bonham. “Instead of adopting policies that are biased against certain members of the community, police should adopt guidelines that support everyone in Painesville.”

The ACLU of Ohio urges the Painesville to fully reject this policy, and will continue to monitor the development of appropriate policing in in Painesville.

The letter to the Painesville Police Department is available.

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Read the letter to the Painesville Police Department

ACLU Urges Leaders to Adopt Desperately Needed Police Reform as Two-Year Anniversary of Cleveland Consent Decree Approaches

CLEVELAND—Friday, May 26th 2017, marks two years since ...
Police Car

CLEVELAND—Friday, May 26th 2017, marks two years since the city of Cleveland signed an agreement, or consent decree, committing to make major changes to its police department. This anniversary comes on the heels of Jeff Sessions’ order that the Department of Justice review all existing police reform agreements, including Cleveland’s, raising concerns that the DOJ could withdraw or lessen its support from these much-needed reforms.

“It is quite ironic that Attorney General Sessions claims to support law enforcement, yet has continually turned a blind eye to the real problems in our police department.” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director at the ACLU of Ohio. “No one is safe when officers don’t have access to basic equipment and technology, and when both officers and community members have to wait as long as four years to have complaints resolved. Constitutional policing reforms make law enforcement’s job easier and also promote safety in our communities.”

In a 2014 report, the DOJ found widespread evidence of excessive use of force and a lack of accountability for officer misconduct. Recently, there have been setbacks in implementation of reforms by the city of Cleveland and DOJ. The independent monitor recently raised concerns about a backlog of 800 unresolved civilian complaints dating back to 2014. The City is also reneging on its prior pledge to pilot body-worn cameras for off-duty officers working a second job.

“Only two years into this process, it is not time to back down from reform,” said Brickner. “The recent wavering by Cleveland officials and the lack of leadership from the DOJ is a step backward for police and Cleveland residents alike.”

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Get more information: www.ClevelandConsentDecree.org

ACLU Comment on AG Sessions’ Announcement that DOJ to Review All Existing Reform Agreements on Policing

CLEVELAND― The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio ...
Police Car

CLEVELAND― The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio issued the following statement regarding the announcement by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he would order the Department of Justice to review all existing consent decrees on policing.

The following statement may be attributed to ACLU of Ohio senior policy director Mike Brickner.

“Attorney General Sessions’ announcement is profoundly disturbing. Sessions’ statement runs counter to what we know about police reform: that constitutional policing practices actually enhance law enforcement officers’ ability to perform their jobs, improving public safety – as well as officer safety. At the same time, constitutional police practices protect the basic rights of vulnerable communities. These principles are fully compatible with one another, and are embedded into the fabric of Cleveland’s consent decree.”

“Cleveland’s consent decree was entered into after an exhaustive study of the Cleveland Division of Police uncovered systemic failures that could be solved only by significant, long-term, mandated reforms. The Department of Justice, City, and Cleveland residents came together, all recognizing that change needed to occur. The underlying issues that have plagued Cleveland for decades – excessive use of force, overuse of deadly force, uninvestigated misconduct complaints – will require many more years of strong partnership to achieve reform. Stopping now will do nothing but take us back in time.”

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ACLU Urges Washington Court House to End Unjust Citing of Individuals who have Overdosed

CLEVELAND—The American Civil Liberties Union of ...
Criminal Justice

CLEVELAND—The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter today to the City of Washington Court House, urging it to end its unjust practice of charging individuals who overdose on heroin under Ohio’s Inducing Panic law. A conviction under the law may lead to a sentence of 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

“This policy discourages people from calling for help when their loved one or neighbor is experiencing an overdose. It’s dangerous,” said Elizabeth Bonham, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Ohio. “We cannot punish our way out of this opioid crisis. Charging victims of overdose with a crime is a perfect example of how not to deal with our opioid problem in Ohio.”

According to news reports, Washington Court House began charging individuals who overdosed with inducing panic beginning in February 2017. Public records obtained by the ACLU of Ohio show that at least 12 people have been charged so far.

“Officials may have good intentions, but we know that piling on fines and jail time to treat drug use just doesn’t work. Beyond that, using the inducing panic statute to charge these individuals is unlawful,” added Bonham.

“By further punishing individuals who have already suffered from an overdose, the City of Washington Court House is advocating criminalization over treatment. We are calling on the City to end this practice,” concluded Bonham.

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Read the letter to the city of Washington Court House

Bail Reform: A Civil Liberties Briefing

Every day nearly 450,000 people languish in jail without ever being convicted of a crime. Ohio’s punitive bail system is costly, racially biased, counterproductive, and a key driver of mass incarceration. People suffer in local jails while awaiting trial, and ...

Every day nearly 450,000 people languish in jail without ever being convicted of a crime. Ohio’s punitive bail system is costly, racially biased, counterproductive, and a key driver of mass incarceration. People suffer in local jails while awaiting trial, and low-level offenses such as drug possession cause many working Ohioans to lose their jobs. Most importantly, putting bail out of reach for thousands of low-income people violates our fundamental principle of innocent until proven guilty. The ACLU of Ohio recommends reasonable and achievable reforms to end this unjust practice.

Read our resource Bail Reform: A Civil Liberties Briefing.


Posted to Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, General Civil Liberties, Juvenile Justice, Racial Justice.

Resource » Bail Reform: A Civil Liberties Briefing

New Legislation Further Criminalizes Drug Use, Adds to Prison Time

Ohio legislators feed mass incarceration by introducing bills that would send more people to our jails and prison for longer periods of time. Learn more about the Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline and our commentary about Ohio’s criminalizing drug ...

Ohio legislators feed mass incarceration by introducing bills that would send more people to our jails and prison for longer periods of time.

Learn more about the Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline and our commentary about Ohio’s criminalizing drug use and the War on Drugs.

This year, Ohio legislators have already introduced three bills that would expand penalties and sentences for drug use so far this year. SB 1, HB 4, and SB 42 further criminalize drug use, which should be treated through public health methods like rehabilitation, treatment, and education. These misguided bills continue to fill our already-overcrowded prisons and jails, without helping Ohioans.

SB 1: Revise Drug Laws

  • Primary Sponsor: Senator Frank LaRose (R)
  • Status: Approved by the Senate
  • Summary: SB 1 will increase penalties for fentanyl, including low-level possession, and treat mixtures added to fentanyl the same as fentanyl for sentencing purposes. Learn more.

HB 4: Prescribe how cocaine is to be measured for offense

  • Primary Sponsors: Representative Robert Cupp (R), Representative John Rogers (D)
  • Status: Passed House (97-0); Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Summary: HB 4 will change how cocaine is measured for determining trafficking and possession sentences, and treat mixtures added to cocaine (like baking soda) the same as cocaine for sentencing purposes. Learn more.

SB 42: Specify that referring to a drug also refers to compounds

  • Primary Sponsor: Senator John Eklund (R)
  • Status: As Introduced; Currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Summary: SB 42 will expand drug offense penalties to compounds and mixtures – treating mixtures added to drugs the same as the actual drug. Learn more.

Posted to Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, General Civil Liberties, Juvenile Justice, Racial Justice.

ACLU of Ohio Report: Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017

Every session of the Ohio General Assembly, laws are introduced to create new crimes and enhance sentences for crimes already on the books. Now our jails and prisons are overflowing, and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold nearly 51,000. ...

Every session of the Ohio General Assembly, laws are introduced to create new crimes and enhance sentences for crimes already on the books. Now our jails and prisons are overflowing, and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold nearly 51,000. This is mass incarceration by a thousand cuts.

The ACLU of Ohio reviewed all 1,004 bills introduced during the 2015-2016 legislative session and found nearly 1 in 10 included language to lock more people up longer. Sixteen of these bills became law. We’re calling on Ohio’s General Assembly to stop acting as a factory that produces new crimes and longer sentences to support an uninterrupted flow of prisoners into a legal pipeline that ends in jail or prison. Read Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017.


Posted to Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, General Civil Liberties, Juvenile Justice, Racial Justice.

Proposed New Crimes And Penalties Undermine Legislature’s Criminal Justice Reform Efforts, Say ACLU

COLUMBUS—A new ACLU of Ohio report, ...
Criminal Justice

COLUMBUS—A new ACLU of Ohio report, issued today, finds that Ohio legislators introduced nearly 100 bills in the last legislative session to send more people to already overcrowded prisons and jails. The report, Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017, highlights that the Ohio General Assembly is damaging their own multi-year effort to simplify the criminal code by lengthening prison and jail sentences and proposing new criminal offenses.

“This should be a wake-up call for legislators,” says Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist of the ACLU of Ohio. “We can’t expect criminal justice reform to succeed if legislators are constantly funneling more people into an already overflowing statehouse-to-prison pipeline.” The report identifies that one in nine bills in the House and one in 15 bills in the Senate contained some form of sentencing enhancement.

“We need to focus on what’s gone terribly wrong with our criminal justice system,” said Daniels. “Mass incarceration is ruining lives, neighborhoods and communities, especially for people of color. Until the Recodification Committee finishes its work, there should be no more bills that add new crimes or penalties,” continued Daniels.

The report, Ohio’s Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline 2017, calls for a series of reforms, including a freeze on sentence enhancements, at least until the work of the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee is completed later this session.

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The report is available at www.acluohio.org/statehouse-to-prison-2017.

Read our 2015 report.

Blog Post » Ohio is Asking the Wrong Questions about the Death Penalty

Department of Justice Sends Letter to Judges Calling for End to Fines and Fees Profiting Off the Poor

Protesting? #KnowYourRights

Cleveland Consent Decree: DOJ and City Reach Settlement on Police Reform

A consent decree is a settlement agreement. In 2013-2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) and found that many of the police department’s practices were not just bad, but also illegal and unconstitutional. ...

A consent decree is a settlement agreement. In 2013-2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) and found that many of the police department’s practices were not just bad, but also illegal and unconstitutional. For example, Cleveland police were regularly using too much force on residents, and weren’t properly looking into residents’ complaints of misbehavior. There were many other problems too that the DOJ discusses in its 58-page report.

The DOJ then took the City of Cleveland (which includes the police) to court over their unconstitutional practices, and with the help of a judge, the two of them worked out a settlement agreement, or consent decree. The City of Cleveland agreed to make many changes to its police department – and it had no other choice, considering how bad the problems were that the DOJ found. The consent decree is a 110-page document that outlines all the changes Cleveland must make to its police department.

A complete overview of the timeline, litigation, and resources about the Consent Decree is available.

After five months of negotiations, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the city of Cleveland have reached an agreement to reform the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) in the pattern or practice of using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The city of Cleveland has agreed to systematic changes in how its police officers and the community interact with one another. Major reforms in the settlement or “consent decree” include:

Creating a Community Police Commission that will promote greater engagement between Cleveland Police Department (CPD) and the many communities within Cleveland.

  • Adopting a comprehensive community policing model to strengthen community partnerships and collaborative problem solving.
  • Revising policies related to search, seizure, and detainment, and enhancing data collection on these interactions to identify incidents of racial profiling.
  • Revising policies on use of force, which will be overseen by the creation of a Force Review Board.
  • Making substantial changes to the Office of Professional Standards and the Police Review Board to ensure that all civilian complaints of police misconduct are thoroughly and effectively investigated.
  • Providing better crisis intervention training to officers.
  • Providing better mental health services and resources for officers.
  • Conducting a comprehensive equipment and resource study to assess current needs and priorities within the CDP.

An independent monitor approved by the federal court will oversee the CDP’s compliance for an initial term of five years.

For more information:

Read the summary of the DOJ-City of Cleveland Consent Decree.

Read the full consent decree. (large pdf)

Find out more about the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation.

Read our statement on the DOJ’s agreement with the City of Cleveland.

Check out our recommendations for Cleveland police reforms. 

Blog Post » Is 15 Cents High Enough?

Download our “Know Your Rights” Publications

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio ...

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio has produced these “Know Your Rights” publications on such topics as free speech, voting rights and police practices among other civil liberties issues.

Our list of downloadable publications is available at www.acluohio.org/KYR

Blog Post » Black Lives Matter: Marching on Washington

ACLU Comment on U.S. Department of Justice Probe of Cleveland Police Department

CLEVELAND, Ohio—The ACLU of Ohio has issued a statement on the U.S. Department of Justice’s conclusions on the investigation of the Cleveland Police Department’s use of excessive force. "Today's announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice is not a surprise to ...

CLEVELAND, Ohio—The ACLU of Ohio has issued a statement on the U.S. Department of Justice’s conclusions on the investigation of the Cleveland Police Department’s use of excessive force.

“Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice is not a surprise to many greater Clevelanders,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director for the ACLU of Ohio. “Unfortunately, problems with police-community relations and the excessive use of force by law enforcement has been an enduring concern in our community. We must use this opportunity to reform a police system that has led to many people of color who feel unsafe and unfairly treated by those who are supposed to protect and serve them. Our police department should be one that is marked by maturity, restraint, and trust that comes from proper training and supervision that keeps everyone safe. The ACLU of Ohio will continue to monitor the negotiations between the Department of Justice and city of Cleveland. It is our hope that reforms adopted will be systemic and promote fairness and justice for all Clevelanders.”

Department of Justice Releases Findings on Cleveland Police Use of Force

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the results of a 20-month investigation of the Cleveland Police Department’s use of excessive force.  The agency launched the probe in March ...

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the results of a 20-month investigation of the Cleveland Police Department’s use of excessive force.  The agency launched the probe in March 2013 after several highly publicized incidents of violence against African Americans, including the 2012 police chase and shooting that ended in the deaths of two unarmed citizens.

Here are links to the Department of Justice’s reports on the investigation:

Case Summary
Executive Summary of Findings Letter (2014, English)
Executive Summary of Findings Letter (2014, Spanish)
Findings Letter (2014)
Statement of Principles (2014)

Read the ACLU of Ohio’s comment on the U.S. Department of Justice Probe of the Cleveland Police Department.

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ACLU of Ohio’s Mike Brickner on HuffPost Live: Jail Time for Being Poor

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How Ohio’s Medicaid Expansion Can Keep People Out of Jail & Save Money: a civil liberties briefing

Mass Incarceration: A civil liberties briefing

Blog Post » ‘We can’t arrest our way out of this problem’

For decades, Ohio politicians sought to be “tough on crime” by increasing criminal penalties. Now our courts are overflowing and prisons designed to house 38,000 people hold almost 51,000. Meanwhile, state and county budgets are strained by the resulting expenses and crime rates have not declined.

Blog Post » Ohio is Asking the Wrong Questions about the Death Penalty

Press Release » Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Announces Revised Execution Dates

Access Denied

For more than two decades, Siddique Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Keith LaMar and Greg Curry have claimed they are innocent of the crimes attributed to them during the 1993 prison uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF). These five men ...

For more than two decades, Siddique Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Keith LaMar and Greg Curry have claimed they are innocent of the crimes attributed to them during the 1993 prison uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF).

These five men accuse the state of coercing false testimony from other SOCF prisoners in order to convict them. They have spent years in solitary confinement, soliciting media attention in an attempt to convince the public—and ultimately the court system—that they do not belong where they are.

In response, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has created a de-facto ban on face-to-face media contact with these men, arguing that they are too much of a security risk to be allowed to tell their stories in person.

In late 2013, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit challenging this ban.

Learn more.

Blog post » Standing on the Side of Justice

Standing on the Side of Justice Rally – Part 4 of 4

Standing on the Side of Justice Rally – Part 3 of 4

Skatzes v. Smith (amicus)

State v. Maxwell White