Proposed Changes in Criminal Code Attempt to Reduce Prison Population

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Two state senators want to keep low-level criminal offenders out of prison and they want judges to consider rehabilitation as part of sentencing.

Democrat Charleta Tavares and Republican John Eklund have introduced legislation to update Ohio’s criminal code.  For people convicted of non-violent offenses, counties would be encouraged to keep them in local incarceration programs rather than sending them to state prison. 

Senator Eklund says overpopulation of Ohio’s prisons was one reason for introducing his bill.  There are currently more than 50,000 inmates. But, he says, it wasn’t the main reason.

“These are human beings who have a problem, many of them,” says Eklund.  “And their issues and making them better parts of our society doesn’t always happen in prison.  There have been alternatives that have been proven to reintegrate these folks into our society, make them productive citizens, and allow them, really, to have the kind of life that we’d like to think we all deserve to have.” 

Eklund was speaking on the WVIZ/PBS public affairs show “Ideas.”  He points out that Ohio has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country – 29% compared to the national rate of 49%. 

Under Eklund’s Senate Bill 66, people who repeat technical violations of parole would not necessarily have to return to prison.  And it would allow judges discretion to seal certain criminal records, intended to help those people get jobs. 

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