Ohio’s county prosecutors are recommending major changes to state drug laws, including the elimination of mandatory prison sentences for trafficking and possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, except in the most serious cases, reports the Columbus Dispatch. The prosecutors want to reduce several other non-drug crimes to misdemeanors from felonies, including assaulting a school teacher, administrator or school bus operator without physical harm; injuring a police dog or horse; illegal use of food stamps; and unauthorized use of a cable television or telecommunication device.
The changes would ratchet back some “tough-on-crime” laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s. John Murphy, director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said the changes are intended to counter Gov. Ted Strickland’s proposal to ease prison overcrowding by allowing inmates to accumulate seven days of “earned credit” per month by participating in programming. The credit would allow them to reduce their sentences — even if they’re serving definite or “flat” sentences — so they can be released earlier. “There is a little bit different view on drug offenses than there was 20 years ago when many of these laws were enacted,” Murphy said. Ohio prisons chief Terry Collins said he’s not dropping the earned-credit proposal. He estimated it would save the state $11.4 million annually by removing 2,644 prisoners from the overcrowded system. David Diroll, head of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission, called the proposal “an historic change for the prosecutors.”