As Ohio's inmate population again approaches record levels, with no money available for bricks and mortar, prisons chief Gary Mohr is looking at something never used in the state: emergency early release of prisoners, reports the Columbus Dispatch. As of Dec. 29, Ohio prisons held 50,641 inmates, 31 percent above design capacity and about 1,000 more than two years ago at this time. A state law allows for the declaration of an “overcrowding emergency,” resulting in the release of some nonviolent prisoners 30, 60 or 90 days early before the normal ends of their terms
Mohr's annual budget letter said the state is at a “significant decision point for criminal justice policy. Do we invest in people or in bricks and mortar? To build and operate one prison for two decades would cost Ohioans one billion dollars.” New projections have the population hitting 50,794 by July 1, and rising to 52,844 by 2023. Ohio's all-time high was 51,273 on Nov. 10, 2008. The prison population is increasing despite an overall drop in the crime rate and the fact that the six largest counties are sending fewer people to state prisons. The other 82 counties are making up for it.