Ohio, under Governor John Kasich, has become a national leader in corrections and prison reform, says the Toledo Blade in an editorial. The newspaper says the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) “has developed innovative and cost-effective programs that increase public safety, reduce recidivism, and enable more of the 20,000 people a year who leave Ohio prisons to become productive citizens.” The Blade praises department director Gary Mohr, who last month got the Association of State Correctional Administrators' innovation award. Ohio's recidivism rate has dropped to a record low of 27.1 percent, below a national average of nearly 50 percent, the Blade says.
Ohio has more than 50,000 inmates, and a $1.6 billion annual corrections budget. State initiatives on prisoner re-entry, drug and mental health treatment, and alternatives to incarceration have avoided the need for new prisons, saving taxpayers at least $1 billion over the next two decades. Early in his tenure, Mohr pushed for legislation that diverted more low-level, nonviolent offenders from prison, and removed some of the lifelong barriers associated with a criminal record. Last year, the state started enrolling inmates in Medicaid before their release, and this year, it partnered with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to expand drug treatment programs and continue them in the community.