Last week, Christopher John White’s difficult life met a tragic end at the young age of 34. For some time, Chris had been living without shelter in Columbus, Ohio. Official records state his address simply as “Streets of Columbus.” On November 19, Chris drowned after police attempted to arrest him for asking for help.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was voted down in a referendum at the beginning of this month. HERO extended nondiscrimination protections to include numerous classes of people on the basis of race, age, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio supports a bipartisan bill which seeks to spare those with severe and persistent mental illness from facing execution in the state of Ohio. This bill came out of the Ohio Supreme Court Task Force, which recommends an end to this barbaric practice.
“No idiot, or insane person, shall be entitled to the privileges of an elector.” That is how Article V, Section 6 of the Ohio State Constitution currently reads, and it is the subject of the most recent meeting of the Bill of Rights and Voting Committee of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission.
In Ohio, we have a problem with prison overcrowding. As a recent Department of Justice Report shows, Ohio’s prison population ranks sixth among all states. Last year, Ohio only managed to reduce its prison population by 0.4%, which is exactly 210 people.
It is already incredibly difficult for people leaving prison and jail to succeed on the outside. They must contend with criminal records that follow them at every turn. It prevents them from getting certain jobs, or even living in certain apartment buildings.
“We must talk seriously about criminal justice reform because of how close it is connected to racial justice,” said Piper Kerman, discussing the intrinsic relationship between the two issues. Piper’s words struck a chord over 300 attendees at this year’s Ed Likover Memorial Lecture.
Without ever being charged with a crime, you can have your property permanently seized and sold for profit to subsidize law enforcement agency budgets in Ohio. This practice, known as civil asset forfeiture, gives law enforcement agencies the ability to take any asset–such as cash, vehicles, real estate and other personal property–without a warrant, a conviction, or even criminal charges.
Everyone knows it — Ohio is a major swing state, often the deciding state in presidential elections. But in every election, our votes have a greater impact on our local communities. This year Ohioans have the opportunity, and obligation, to provide leadership for the entire country on desperately needed reform in our criminal justice electoral systems.