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Unlocking Ohio

Feb. 26, 2016

Editorial: Toledo Correctional camp reopens

Holding 50,420 inmates, the Ohio state prison system is about 30 percent over capacity. Prison chief Gary Mohr has prudently ruled out building more prisons, as he continues to seek more effective — and less expensive — ways to make Ohio’s 27 prisons less crowded.

A new initiative in Toledo, starting this spring, is a good example: It will allow low-level, nonviolent drug offenders to finish their sentences in halfway houses, where they can get appropriate treatment for addiction in a less-costly community setting. FULL EDITORIAL

 

Feb. 14, 2016

Editorial: The greatest injustice

Ohio state prisons probably hold hundreds of innocent people. Most of them will never get justice.

Nothing so violates the sanctity of the law as condemning the innocent. In the few cases where such travesties are exposed, the state should acknowledge and learn from its errors, and act quickly to redress them.

That’s not how it goes in Ohio, which has erected onerous legal hurdles to compensating the wrongfully convicted. State lawmakers should remove these excessive and oppressive barriers to justice and allow the wrongfully convicted to take their cases directly to Ohio’s Court of Claims. FULL EDITORIAL

Jeff Gerritt commentary: Released from prison, Danny Brown still isn’t free

Danny Brown walked out of prison nearly 15 years ago, after DNA evidence reversed his murder conviction. But he won’t be truly free until the state recognizes his innocence and compensates him for his wrongful imprisonment.

I hope that day comes before Mr. Brown, now 60, blows a gasket. Sick and broke, he has been living at Cherry Street Mission for nearly six months.

Mr. Brown’s obsession with clearing his name is taking a toll. Last Thursday, sitting with me in a downtown McDonald’s, he sipped black coffee and pulled out a plastic bag with enough medication to choke a horse.

Unzipping the bag, he dropped nearly a dozen bottles onto the table. Sifting through a kaleidoscope of pills, his hands shook like leaves in the wind.

“Nerves,” he said. FULL COMMENTARY

Jan. 17, 2016

Editorial: Crime of punishment

Driven largely by fear, Ohio and the rest of the country have, over the past four decades, built an American gulag that imprisons 2.3 million people. With 25 percent of the planet’s prisoners, the world’s leading democracy has become the world’s largest jailer.

With more than 50,500 prisoners, Ohio alone incarcerates more people than does the entire country of Canada. The state’s 27 crowded prisons are 30 percent over capacity.

Costing the nation at least $80 billion a year, including $1.6 billion in Ohio, mass incarceration exemplifies a costly and wasteful big-government program that doesn’t work, diverting precious resources from repairing roads, hiring teachers, treating the addicted, and addressing other needs.

Here and around the country, public policies — not crime — fueled most of the exponential growth of prisoners and prisons. Public policies can also drive a decrease of similar dimension. Ohio can lead by setting targets and goals for reducing the state’s prison population. FULL EDITORIAL

Jeff Gerritt commentary: State sets goal: 1,000 fewer inmates by 2017

Peer mentoring is one of dozens of new initiatives the state is counting on to help reduce the population of Ohio’s crowded prisons by 1,000 inmates over the next year.

By influencing their peers in a positive way, offenders and ex-offenders can help reverse the pernicious effects of the race to incarcerate. The shortsighted criminal justice policies that fueled it over the last 40 years have made the United States the world’s leading jailer. Ohio alone holds more prisoners than the entire country of Canada.

With more than 50,500 inmates, Ohio’s prison population has increased more than six-fold in the last four decades. Its 27 prisons are 30 percent over capacity. Nearly one in four Ohio state employees work for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. DRC’s annual budget exceeds $1.6 billion.

DRC Director Gary Mohr has, rightly, refused to build more prisons. Instead, he told me last week that he has committed the state to lowering its prison population by 2 percent by January, 2017. READ MORE

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