2015 At The Ohio Supreme Court, And Changing Laws On Seizing Property From Criminal Suspects

2015 was a big year for cases involving public records, home rule, sex offenders and charter schools at the state’s highest court. The court sided with journalists in some public records cases, and with the for-profit charter school operator White Hat Management in a controversial decision that ended up affecting future legislation. There were rulings related to local governments’ home rule powers, and two big rulings on sex offenders. And the justices stepped into the ballot battle over the legalization of marijuana and clarified rules on judges after the US Supreme Court's ruling upholding same-sex marriage.

The war on crime – and specifically on drugs – has led to some bold moves by lawmakers and law enforcement. One of those big steps is called civil asset forfeiture, which allows for money, property, weapons and other valuables to be seized if authorities suspect that it’s tied to a crime. The conservative-leaning Institute for Justice, which has defended some people trying to recover their seized property, says Ohio took in more than $80 million between 2000 and 2008 through civil asset forfeiture, although there are those who say there aren’t any hard numbers on the practice in Ohio. Two bills under consideration in the House and the Senate would abolish civil asset forfeiture and would require a person be convicted of a crime before his assets can be seized and held permanently. Two sponsors of the Senate version who are on opposite sides of the aisle talk about why they both support it - its primary sponsor, Sen. Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander) and Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati).

There are more than 50,000 men and women behind bars in Ohio. And while the crimes they’ve committed have done permanent damage to their victims, their families and their communities, some inmates are trying to find ways to improve themselves and make the world a bit better. Some are continuing their educations, some are learning new trades and skills, and some are creating amazing works of art - which were on display on Capitol Square in 2015.

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