Ohio’s prison population has dropped below 44,000 for the first time since 1995, the Associated Press reports. Ohio has 43,970 inmates, 2.9 percent under this last year. The highest total was slightly over 49,000 in 1999. Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, attributed the decline to more community programs that keep people out of prison and more liberal parole board policies. “The main reason is the shift of nonviolent offenders to community sanctions – halfway houses, community-based corrections facilities, and things of that nature,” Dean said.
A court order that the state parole board review past sentences contributed. A 1996 law that set sentences for most offenses created a disparity in sentences between individuals convicted before 1996 and after. The Ohio Supreme Court required the parole board to address the disparity, resulting in more inmates convicted before 1996 eligible for parole.