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Ohio Lawmakers Look to Reform Criminal Code & Reduce Prison Population

Bridges, Jillisky, Streng, Weller & Gullifer, LLC

States around the country have turned to a new approach in how they arrest, prosecute, and penalize low-level and nonviolent offenders. The shift toward favoring leniency, discretion, and fairness in these criminal matters, rather than a historically tough stance on all crime, was sparked by widespread reform support and the recognition of the many failures of America’s “War on Drugs.” Now, Ohio is looking to do the same.

In a press conference held Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio lawmakers proposed new bipartisan backed legislation that would reform the state’s criminal code, allow more nonviolent offenders to remain in communities and have more opportunity for future success, and reduce bursting jail and prison populations statewide. Ohio’s inmate population is currently 130% over its capacity.

At Bridges, Jillisky, Weller & Gullifer, LLC, our Union County criminal defense attorneys have years of experience fighting to protect the rights and futures of clients charged with all types of crimes, including lower level, nonviolent offenses such as drug crimes, probation or parole violations, and others. In these cases, our legal team works diligently to help clients explore not only their defense options, but also options for alternative sentencing and lenience that can allow them to remain contributing members of our communities. The new legislation could make these options available to more people.

Here are some details about what could change under the proposed legislation:

  • Offenders who commit minor technical violations of their probation or parole – such as missing a mandatory meeting – would no longer automatically be sent back to prison.
  • More people convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses would have the opportunity to file petitions with the court to have their criminal records sealed.
  • Judges would be given greater discretion when sentencing inmates, particularly when it comes to terms of parole.
  • Ohio’s criminal justice system would shift toward greater emphasis on rehabilitation that can help keep nonviolent members out of jail or prison and in their communities.

The legislation’s primary goal, as has been the case in other states where criminal justice reform has passed, is to reduce swelling jail and prison populations that not only house many offenders who were convicted of minor, nonviolent offenses, but also cost taxpayers big bucks. In order to achieve this, lawmakers are looking to change the way Ohio sentences and penalizes offenders.

By placing greater focus on rehabilitation and things such as education, court-ordered classes, drug and alcohol treatment, and other programs, offenders are able to receive the support they need to become contributing citizens. These rehabilitative efforts have been noted to greatly reduce recidivism rates, or the likelihood that a convicted offender will return to jail or prison.

One of the law’s most significant changes would be to allow more people to petition for expungement, or the sealing of their criminal record. This can provide more opportunities for offenders who want to move on with their lives free from the stain and burdens of having a criminal record or conviction.

Criminal justice reform is widely supported in our country, and it is a common sense approach to fixing a problem that began when our criminal system took an excessively tough stance on crime. Not all violations or crimes require a stay in prison, and more people should have the opportunity to take advantage of rehabilitation in order to function as productive members of our society and remain out of trouble.

Over the years, our criminal defense lawyers have consistently fought for the best possible resolutions on behalf of our clients, often to keep them out of jail and prison and to help them as they moved forward in life and put their run-in with the law in their past. Our legal team is readily available to assist anyone who has been charged with a criminal offense in Marysville or any of the surrounding areas of Ohio.

To discuss your criminal case and how our firm can help, contact us for a free consultation.