HB 251 removes the current sentencing requirement of community control sanctions (or alternatives to prison such as community service, residential curfew, and/or mandatory employment) for non-violent, first-time offenders who commit felonies of the 4th and 5th degrees, leaving sentencing up to the discretion of the court. This bill eliminates a reform enacted by HB 86, a criminal justice bill passed in the previous General Assembly, which required judges to use community control sanctions with the goal of reducing prison populations and holding people accountable without sending them to prison.
LCS Legislation Status
Our Take on This Bill
HB 251 is a cause for great concern for Ohio’s criminal justice system as it rolls back a key component of sentencing reform of HB 86, which passed during the 129th General Assembly. One of the major provisions of HB 86 was alternative sentencing for people convicted of low-level, non-violent offences, permitting them to be sentenced to a community sanction rather than prison. According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, this bill would result in a minimum rise in expenditures of $10.3 million and grow our already overcrowded prison system.
The ACLU of Ohio works to reduce unnecessary incarceration and believes this bill would not support a fair and effective criminal justice system that holds people proportionally responsible for their actions. Other states have enacted reforms that hold people accountable and decrease the prison population with out compromising public safety. Ohio is surely capable of doing the same.
Passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on 3/13/14