Criminal Justice

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 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.”