It took years to get the criminal sentencing reform law passed in Ohio, but a year after its enactment, judges are complaining that they do not have sufficient discretion in sentencing. HB 86, Ohio’s sentencing reform or prison reform bill, as it is alternatively called, essentially attempted to keep lower level non-violent felons out of prisons and retained in communities. It also provided mechanisms for early release if an inmate was involved in evidence-based programming. The bill passed after years of partisan bickering and only after the Council of State Governments came in to study Ohio’s system and provide research-based recommendations.
The bill has had its intended effect in that the prison population has been dropping – down to its lowest level since 2007. Yet the legislation has faced pushback since it passed, as the judicial community has felt that the bill has tied its hands in giving prison time where a judge may feel it is warranted, regardless of community alternatives or a first time offense.
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