Could Ohio Sentencing Reform Bring Headaches to Counties?


Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed criminal sentencing reforms that could release thousands of non-violent prisoners from the expensive prison system – and keep them out with drug rehabilitation and other programs, says the Cincinnati Enquirer. The new law may bring a lot of headaches – and some resentment – to county officials who believe the law means more mandated bureaucracy they will now have to pay for at a time when county government is struggling with a reduced budget and the possibility of additional layoffs among county workers.

“Today has been kind of a double whammy,” said Hamilton County Court Administrator Mike Walton. With a county budget that shows proposed deep cuts in the criminal justice system, the courts and jail also have to prepare for the changes caused by sentencing reforms. He noted that an already at-capacity Hamilton County Justice Center means there is no place to incarcerate the local offenders when they are released from prison. It also means those charged in the future may not be jailed because the jail – which can hold a maximum of 1,240 inmates – is less of a deterrent. “We’re not going to lock you up. You don’t have that hanging over your head. What’s the consequence? There is none,” Walton said. A state reform goal is to save taxpayers about $46 million over four years by changing how some non-violent, low-level felons are sentenced.

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