Stricter sentencing laws IN THE the U.S. in recent years have contributed greatly toward ranking the United States No. 1 in the world in the number of people imprisoned. In Ohio, prison crowding has soared in recent years, reaching 131 percent of capacity today.
Such crowding has a deleterious impact on prison violence, costs to taxpayers and supervision and rehabilitation of offenders. As such, it demands investigation and action by state leaders.
Just last week, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor spoke bluntly about the need for change: “We as judges must be part of the solution because we are certainly part of the problem. We cannot take an attitude of out of sight, out of mind once offenders leave the courtroom.”
Of course, sometimes judges are handcuffed by mandatory long and harsh sentences even for nonviolent offenders. While their intent in reducing crime is noble, their practical application has left prisons bursting at the seams.
That’s one major reason why Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this month announced the Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders.
States have responded by doing the same. Others have closed prisons, replaced jail time with community programs and reformed parole policies that too often create a revolving door into and out of prisons.
Leaders in Ohio’s judicial and legislative branches of government should explore similar reforms post haste.