Ohioans will soon be voting on Issue 1, a ballot initiative that is ostensibly about reforming drug laws, but actually is about giving “get out of jail free” cards to not only drug offenders, but dozens of other kinds of criminals in Ohio’s prisons. The ballot initiative is known as “The Neighborhood Safety Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment” and is a six-page amendment to the Ohio Constitution.
(You can read the actual language of the ballot, as well as pro and con arguments regarding the issue at the non-partisan voting information site, ivoters.com.)
The premise is that too many non-violent criminals are clogging up the courts and prison system and we need to get them out of prisons and back into society. Supposedly this will save the state of Ohio a ton of money. Prison expenditures should only be for violent offenders, proponents say.
Only that’s not what will happen if Issue 1 passes. Here are three reasons Issue 1 is a terrible idea.
1. Drug convictions will only count as misdemeanors
This initiative would reduce all sentences for criminals who are guilty of illegal drug possession, drug trafficking, or possession of drug paraphernalia. The new law, which would become part of the Ohio Constitution — not the Ohio Revised Code — would mandate that everyone found guilty of drug violations be charged only with a misdemeanor.
Selling cocaine or heroin or fentanyl? You would be slapped with the equivalent of a parking ticket. Repeat offender? No big deal. If you have been convicted one or two times in a two-year period of time, there shall be no penalty stronger than probation. Yep, it says that in Issue 1. Go read it for yourself.
The proposal goes on to say that current prisoners may appeal their sentences for drug violations and also get them reduced to misdemeanors. So, convicts can bypass parole boards and basically write their own tickets to get out of jail. The initiative says that incarcerated individuals shall earn a one-half-day credit on their sentences for each day they participate in rehabilitation, work, or educational programs — up to 25 percent of their sentence. This applies, by the way, to all convicted criminals except murderers, rapists, child molesters, or those who have been sentenced to death or life without parole.