Ohio Prison Population Grows, “Risk-Reduction Sentencing” Not Working


As Ohio's prison population nears an all-time high, prisons director Gary Mohr is pushing for more money for reentry programs and other community alternatives, reports the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Mohr said he will seek, as a short-term solution, to reopen some prison units that he closed in the past couple years. Ohio's prison population is expected to grow from about 50,500 now to more than 51,000 next June. Current statewide prison capacity is about 38,500.

Mohr said an increase in convictions for drug crimes, especially heroin, have contributed to the rise in prisoners. The number in Ohio prisons temporarily dipped after a new sentencing reform law took effect in 2011. Mohr said some aspects of that law haven't worked – such as risk-reduction sentencing, which allows the release of certain prisoners who complete treatment and programming while incarcerated. While about 50,000 people have been sent to prison in the state since the new law took effect, Mohr said, risk-reduction sentencing has been used in less than 400 cases. “There's something wrong with it,” Mohr said. “It's wrong or we haven't communicated it well enough (to judges).”

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