Currently, more people are incarcerated in Ohio’s prisons than almost any other time in its history. If this trend continues (and there is no reason to believe it will not), our prison population will go from its current number of slightly over 51,000 inmates to nearly 56,000 in the next ten years. These numbers appear dire as our prisons presently operate at 132% of their capacity, already causing considerable hardship to staff and inmates alike.
Among these tens of thousands of inmates we imprison, 57% of them serve sentences of less than one year. Many in this category are locked up for non-violent offenses like non-payment of child support and low-level drug possession.
In response to this situation, Senate Bill 22 (SB 10) was introduced in the Ohio General Assembly by Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and Senator Shirley Smith (D-Cleveland) on February 2,2011. Representative Louis Blessing, Jr (R-Cincinnati) and Representative Tracy Heard (D-Columbus) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives (HB 86) on the same day. The bills were introduced to address the overcrowding that currently exists in Ohio's prisons and the budget challenges that accompany that overcrowding.
SB 10/HB 86 contain a number of recommendations targeting low-level non-violent offenders that will result in significant cost savings in the State budget and reduce overcrowding in the State’s prisons. In addition, low-level non-violent offenders will remain in their local communities, ensuring that they are held accountable for continuing and/or seeking employment, paying taxes and child support, and maintaining family support and responsibilities.
Click here for a summary of the key provisions of Senate Bill 10 and House Bill 86.