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.

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.


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.

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 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.

Mass Incarceration: A civil liberties briefing

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

Blog post » Standing on the Side of Justice

Standing on the Side of Justice Rally – Part 2 of 4

Play

Blog post » Taking a Stand Against Stand Your Ground

Pay to Stay Press Conference » Cincinnati

On June 23, 2013, the ACLU of Ohio released a new report titled Adding It Up: The Financial Realities of Ohio’s Pay-To-Stay Policies and held a press conference on the matter of Pay to Stay facilities …

Play

On June 23, 2013, the ACLU of Ohio released a new report titled Adding It Up: The Financial Realities of Ohio’s Pay-To-Stay Policies and held a press conference on the matter of Pay to Stay facilities in the state of Ohio.  Click the links above to hear Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner provide details of the report.

In the News » Toledo Blade editorializes against debtors prison practices

ACLU on the Radio » Locked Up In A Modern-Day Debtors’ Prison

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

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.

Crisis in Conneaut: A Timeline

Below is a chronicle of 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 …

Below is a chronicle of 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.


ACLU Releases New Publication Showing the Rapid Decline of Privately Owned Prison

CONNEAUT, OH – Today, 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 …

CONNEAUT, OH – Today, 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 release comes two days before the anniversary of the Lucasville prison uprising and amidst reports that LaECI is currently on lockdown after an inmate was seriously beaten in an April 7 prison fight.

“Laid out in a timeline format, the decline of this facility is clear,” said ACLU Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner. “In less than two years this prison has become a privately owned accident waiting to happen.”

The ACLU of Ohio also announced that it received documents from inside the prison that indicate the private prison’s segregation unit is overcrowded—now at 130% capacity with dozens of cells housing three inmates, meaning prisoners are sleeping on the floor.

“The parallels between LaECI and what transpired two decades ago in Lucasville are frightening,” added Brickner. “Overcrowding, triple-bunking, a rise in assaults, and gang activity all preceded the Lucasville uprising. Nearly 20 years to the day since that tragedy, it is clear the nation’s first privately-owned prison is teetering toward the brink as well. This facility has become unsafe for inmates, employees, and the surrounding community. Unless serious changes are made, it’s only a matter of time before something terrible happens.”

A February Audit of LaECI by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) found a number of alarming statistics. From 2010-2012, inmate-on-inmate assaults at LaECI have increased by over 180 percent while inmate-on-staff assaults increased by over 300 percent. Inmate violations for fighting have increased 40 percent, and the total number of prison disturbances in 2012 doubled in comparison to prior years.

The ACLU timeline lays these finding alongside other prominent stories from LaECI, including reports of rampant smuggling and a previous audit that found inmates defecating in bags with no access to running water.

Along with the timeline, the ACLU also issued a letter to legislators asking them to consider legislative action to increase accountability and safety at the troubled private prison.

The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio’s Debtors’ Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities

ACLU Blog » The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio’s Debtors’ Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities

ACLU Report Exposes Debtors’ Prison Practices in Ohio

CLEVELAND – The U.S. Constitution and Ohio state law prohibit courts from jailing people for being too poor to pay their legal fines, but in several Ohio counties, local courts are doing it anyway. The ACLU of Ohio today released …

CLEVELAND – The U.S. Constitution and Ohio state law prohibit courts from jailing people for being too poor to pay their legal fines, but in several Ohio counties, local courts are doing it anyway. The ACLU of Ohio today released The Outskirts of Hope, a report that chronicles a nearly yearlong investigation into Ohio’s debtors’ prisons and tells the stories of six Ohioans whose lives have been damaged by debtors’ prison practices.

“Being poor is not a crime in this country,” said Rachel Goodman, Staff Attorney at the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “Incarcerating people who cannot afford to pay fines is both unconstitutional and cruel—it takes a tremendous toll on precisely those families already struggling the most.”

The law requires that courts hold hearings to determine defendants’ financial status before jailing them for failure to pay fines, and defendants must be provided with lawyers for these hearings. If a defendant cannot pay, the court must explore options other than jail.

“Supreme Court precedent and Ohio law make clear that local courts and jails should not function as debtors’ prisons,” said Carl Takei, Staff Attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project. “Yet many mayors’ courts and some municipal courts jail people without making any attempt whatsoever to determine whether they can afford to pay their fines.”

Beyond the questions of legality, debtors’ prison practices make no financial sense since courts routinely spend more to jail defendants than they would recover in fines.

“Not only are these courts violating the law, they are actually losing money doing it,” said ACLU Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner. “In every case we profiled for The Outskirts of Hope, the county spent more money than it collected to incarcerate people for failure to pay fines. In many cases, it spent more than the defendant owed in the first place.”

“These practices are legally prohibited, morally questionable, and financially unsound. Nevertheless, they appear to be alive and well in Ohio,” added Brickner. “It’s like something out of a Charles Dickens novel.”

In conjunction with the release of The Outskirts of Hope, the ACLU has sent letters to seven Ohio courts, calling for an immediate end to these illegal debtors’ prison practices. In response to a letter sent by the ACLU, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio expressed appreciation for the investigation and indicated interest in meeting to discuss the issue.

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.


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.

The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio’s Debtors’ Prisons Are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities

The Outskirts of Hope

Ohio’s Debtors’ Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities

Download the report. (large PDF – may take several minutes to load)
Tell your …

Ohio’s Debtors’ Prisons are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities

Update: 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’s subsequent meetings with Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor on this issue.


On April 4, 2013, the ACLU of Ohio released The Outskirts of Hope, a chronicle of blatantly illegal debtors’ prison activity across the state of Ohio and the many lives that have been impacted.

In conjunction with this report, the ACLU has sent letters to seven Ohio courts, calling for an immediate end to these illegal debtors’ prison practices. We have also sent a letter to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking them to enforce the law with statewide guidelines to stop this terrible practice in Ohio.

Click here to read our letters.

Something must be done! The Ohio Supreme Court governs the conduct of these local courts. They must make a clear plan for ending debtors’ prison practices in Ohio and they must hold these courts accountable for flouting the law.

You can help! Take a minute to urge the Ohio Supreme Court to end debtors’ prison practices in our state. It’s fast and easy! We’ve already prepared the language to get you started!

Hear how two Ohioans have been impacted by this practice


Click here to tell your story.


Letters to Ohio Courts regarding the use of Debtors’ Prisons in Ohio

On April 4, 2013, the ACLU sent letters to Ohio Courts:

Letter to Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor
Ohio Supreme Court
Response from the Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor

Letter to Bryan Municipal Court

Letter to …

Less Crime, Less Time » It’s time to abandon mass incarceration and focus on rehabilitation » 12.12.12

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.

Trayvon Martin Tragedy Requires Deeper Examination of Justice and Race

CLEVELAND – Today at 1:00 p.m. the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio will rally on the steps of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, joining the NAACP, the Case Black Student Association, and …

CLEVELAND – Today at 1:00 p.m. the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio will rally on the steps of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, joining the NAACP, the Case Black Student Association, and many other voices concerned over the tragic February 26 killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.

Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who followed him as he walked home from a convenience store, then shot him. The Sanford police department responded to the shooting, but did not arrest Zimmerman because he claimed it was self-defense. In the weeks after, outraged Americans have questioned why law enforcement did not handle the investigation differently.

“Opportunity for change often comes during times of strife. Trayvon Martin’s tragic death is much larger than simply a confrontation with a vigilante,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “The circumstances of his death and the ensuing investigation are indicative of the pervasive issues of race and justice in our society. Americans owe it to the Martin family to take this opportunity and change how we address those issues.”

“From Zimmerman’s decision that Martin looked ‘suspicious’ to the deviations in protocol made by the Sanford Police Department, the public must ask why these decisions were made and how we as a society may correct them,” Link continued. “Unfortunately, injustices happen all too often, and we must not wait for another tragedy to occur.”

In the wake of growing concerns over the Sanford Police Department’s investigation, the Florida Attorney General and U.S. Department of Justice have launched probes into the killing. Congressional leaders also held a special session on March 28, 2012 to address the incident and included testimony from the Martin family.

The ACLU of Florida has raised serious concerns over the practices of the Sanford Police Department, which has for the past three years been embroiled in accusations of cover-ups to benefit the family members of its officers.

“Justice for Trayvon Martin does not hinge on the arrest of a single person,” said Link. “We must ensure he did not die in vain, by digging deeper as a community and standing against the specters of bigotry, indifference, and fear that led to this tragedy.”

The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences is located at:
11235 Bellflower Road, Cleveland OH, 44106.

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.

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

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

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Skatzes v. Smith (amicus)

State v. Maxwell White