Ohio Prison Population Drops Slightly; Impact of New Laws Muted


Ohio's revised criminal-sentencing laws are making a difference after six months, diverting hundreds of inmates away from state prisons to less-expensive community programs, the Columbus Dispatch reports. From Oct. 1, 2011, when the new laws took effect, through the end of March, 26 percent fewer inmates were imprisoned for child-support-only violations and 180 fewer inmates came to prison for nonviolent fourth- and fifth-degree felonies.

As a result, the prison population dropped to 49,846, the lowest since November 2008. The number of prisoners had peaked at 51,278. The recidivism rate — the number of offenders who return to prison within three years after being released — is at an all-time low, 31.2 percent. Ohio prisons director Gary Mohr isn't satisfied with the numbers. He had hoped to hit 49,168 inmates by July 1, but that won't happen. “The impact has been slower than we anticipated,” he said. The provision expected to make the deepest impact has been delayed because of legal complications. It would allow the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to recommend that specific inmates be released after serving 80 percent of their sentence. The inmates must have a record of good behavior and be recommended by prison staff.

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