On the heels of last month’s Supreme Court ruling on California’s prison overcrowding, Ohio state lawmakers have approved a bill that would let prison inmates out early and send low-level offenders to non-prison facilities.
The legislation is expected to save the state more than $46 million over the next four years, while reducing prison overcrowding. Ohio’s inmate population is currently 50,561, significantly above the 38,389 capacity.
Here are some highlights of the bill, courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
- Judges will be required to sentence nonviolent, low-level felony offenders to non-prison facilities, such as community correctional programs, rehabilitation centres, and halfway houses.
- Allows the release of non-violent, non-sexual offenders who have served more than 80% of a prison term of one-year or more. First and second-degree felons will be put on parole and monitored with GPS.
- Requires Ohio’s prisons system to review cases of inmates who are 65 or older and eligible for parole to pave the way for a possible release.
- Critics argue that the bill is a short-sighted solution to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. Others raised fears that communities will not have the resources to house criminals in non-prison facilities.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign the legislation this week. Kasich has also proposed selling five of the state’s prisons to private companies as part of his $55.5 billion biennial spending plan. The union representing Ohio’s 10,000 prison employees opposes the sale.
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