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Bill would end mandatory prison time for non-violent offenders who violate parole

According to figures from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the state's prison network, which is designed to accommodate 38,579 inmates, is currently housing well over 50,000 inmates.

ODRC statistics also reveal that 28 percent of this massive prison population is not made up of individuals who were convicted of violent crimes or other major felonies, but rather drug offenses. Indeed, the number of inmates incarcerated for drug crimes in Ohio is 14 percent higher than the national average.

As shocking as these figures are, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers have recently introduced a measure that ORDC officials indicate could go a long way toward reducing this number and saving considerable taxpayer dollars.

Senate Bill 66, sponsored by Sens. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) and John Eklund (R-Chardon), calls for nonviolent offenders who violate the terms of their parole owing to some technical violation (missed meeting, etc.) not to be automatically sent back to prison.

SB 66 also calls for the following:

  • Eliminating the mandatory minimum of one year in prison for parole violations
  • Vesting judges with the authority to end mandatory prison terms for parole violations before one year has passed
  • Eliminating obstacles to record-sealing for those convicted of fifth- and fourth-degree felonies

According to both Tavares and Eklund, the purpose of the bill is not just to reduce the prison population, but also advance the notion that a prison sentence is about more than punishment for certain classes of offenders. Indeed, it's about reform and rehabilitation.

It will be interesting to see if SB 66 gains the necessary traction in the legislature.

Stay tuned for updates ...

If you have been charged with any manner of drug crime -- from possession to distribution -- consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.     

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