Ohio’s budget problems should be the catalyst for the state to reform its probation system, which has been criticized as fragmented, expensive, and ineffective, the state’s new chief justice, Maureen O’Connor, told the Associated Press. A study last year found Ohio spent $189 million in 2008 on inmates with average sentences of nine months. Current approaches sometimes make things worse for low-risk offenders by exposing them to harsher probationary terms than they require, leading to their return to prison, O’Connor said.
Researchers have found that removing minor offenders from their communities, families, and jobs makes it much more likely they’ll commit more crimes and go back to prison. “They actually turn out worse, the result is negative, not positive, and the theory there is that you’re creating more problemms in that person’s life than solving, and as a result they become desperate,” O’Connor said. “Let’s plug in the right people to the right programs instead of a one-size-fits-all or a cookie cutter approach,” she said. O’Connor said the state’s money troubles – it faces a possible $8 billion deficit – make it a good time to look for ways to save dollars. A major sentencing reform bill that would have addressed some probation changes died in the legislature last year.