Gary Mohr, Ohio’s new corrections director, is trying to sell five prisons, turn three of them over to private operators, and lay off 115 parole employees. Mohr tells the Columbus Dispatch that recent weeks have been the most difficult of his nearly 37-year career in the corrections business. He has been ripped by critics inside and outside the system. He insists that selling prisons isn’t reform; it’s “stabilizing” to keep the agency afloat.
He has a larger reform vision of creating a three-tier corrections system, bracketed by “integration” prisons, where inmates work, study and focus on self-development so they can be released to the community, and “control” prisons for the truly bad who are in it for the long haul. Sentencing reform is a Mohr priority. A series of proposed moves are projected to save nearly 7,000 prison beds: granting credit for an earlier release for prisoners who complete work in education, vocational or employment training, or substance-abuse education; funneling nonviolent, low-level offenders to community corrections facilities; equalizing the penalties for crack and powder cocaine; and allowing early release for inmates who’ve served 85 percent of their sentences. Most of the proposals are in the pending state budget bill.