Are Ohio Prisons “About to Blow”? Reform Legislation Is Pushed


Violent or destructive incidents involving six or more inmates in Ohio prisons have almost quadrupled in three years, says the Columbus Dispatch. Such confrontations occurred an average of once every 28 days in 2007, but by last year it was once every 7.6 days. That’s keeping Gary Mohr, the new director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, up at night. “Seven days a week, I’m watching these things show up on my Blackberry,” said Mohr, a veteran of Ohio prisons picked by Gov. John Kasich to return. “This is not the same system I left eight years ago.”

State Sen. Bill Seitz also is concerned. “We are sitting on a tinderbox, and it’s about to blow.” Seitz and Mohr are pushing for a major overhaul of Ohio sentencing, parole, and probation law. Backers say the legislation would save $78 million over three years, reduce the prison population to 2007 levels and avoid the need to spend $500 million building prisons. State prisons house 51,000 offenders, 33 percent more than they were designed to hold. Budget cuts have forced staff reductions, including removing some corrections officers from cellblocks and dormitories. State Sen. Timothy Grendell, chairman of the Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee, has many questions. Yesterday, he challenged the idea of diverting low-level felony offenders from prison, or reducing the sentences of those incarcerated. “Today’s low-level offender is tomorrow’s violent offender,” he said.

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