Ohio Budget Preview: Criminal Justice
Already overcrowded, with any cuts in funding, prison officials have indicated that closing prisons and/or double-bunking inmates in dangerously crowded conditions would occur. Some, including leading Republicans, have indicated a willingness to look at sentencing reform to reduce the numbers incarcerated in the state prison system. One reform that will be debated is alternatives to prison for low-level, nonviolent offenders. The Council of State Governments, a nonpartisan policy think tank released a report suggesting that a range of reforms could save Ohio $62 million over four years.
With the announcement of former private prisons operator Gary Mohr as his Director for the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, Kasich has clearly signaled an intention to look at privatizing more state prisons. Plunderbund provides some background about the performance issues of previous privatization efforts in Ohio. Senate Bill 269 from the 128th General Assembly provides some hints about how far legislators might be willing to go – the bill proposed a study that would look for ways to hand over half of the state’s inmates to private institutions.