Northeast Ohio community leaders embraced Ohio’s new sentencing reform law yesterday at an event with its chief cheerleader, Gov. John Kasich, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. “This bill is a long time coming,” said State Sen. Nina Turner, in a church meeting with politicians, ministers, and people who work directly with felons. In addition to evening out the penalties for crack and powder cocaine, the law diverts low-level criminals — such as those arrested with drug paraphernalia — to community-based programs focused on rehabilitation and education. It also allows future inmates to earn shorter sentences if they complete education and mental health programs while incarcerated.
Kasich said the sentencing reform had been stymied in the past by politics. “It sat for 25 years and nobody wanted to do anything about this,” he said. “There isn’t a place for politics. I am pretty emotional about this bill because I think what we have done with sentencing reform literally will save thousands of lives.” Community activist Lang Dunbar is less optimistic. He said that for the bill to work, employers, more than anybody, have to embrace felons. “The governor said nothing about getting employers to hire them and without them none of this worker training will work,” he said. “We have had job training, but it fails without opportunities.”