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Need for Criminal Justice Reform Topic of Conversation at Buckeye Panel

May 03, 2017

Ohio State University Football Legend Maurice Clarett and Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr joined The Buckeye Institute and the U.S. Justice Action Network to urge legislators to support smart justice reforms in Ohio.

Columbus, OH – Ohio State University football legend Maurice Clarett shared his personal experiences with the Ohio justice system today to emphasize why reform is needed. Clarett was joined by Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr and the president of The Buckeye Institute Robert Alt for a panel discussing smart-on-crime proposals progressing through the Ohio legislature, including reform language in the budget that just passed the House. The U.S. Justice Action Network, the largest bipartisan organization working to reform the justice system in Ohio and federally, co-hosted the event with The Buckeye Institute, a leading voice in the area of criminal justice reform, in an effort to place Ohio among the nation’s leaders on justice reform.

In his first press appearance discussing these issues in nearly two years, Clarett shared how his own personal experience with the justice system motivated him to take action.

“By moving ahead with these policies to improve outcomes for thousands of Ohioans, the Ohio legislature has an opportunity to change lives while improving public safety.” said former Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett. “In my first day in jail I was fortunate to meet a corrections officials who changed my life. This man believed deeply in second chances, and he pointed out that when you make a mistake in this country, we throw you away. He believed that by rehabilitating those in jail and treating the root cause of their problems, we can reduce crime and our prison population, lowering costs for all of society. We urge more leaders and lawmakers to speak out on these issues, because we can’t afford to throw in the towel on thousands of Ohioans who struggle with addiction and mental health issues, and then end up in prison only to become better criminals, rather than better citizens.”
 
Director Mohr used his decades of institutional knowledge to explain why Clarett’s experience isn’t uncommon, and urged immediate action on common sense reforms pending at the Ohio Statehouse. Mohr championed his efforts with Governor John Kasich to increase the use of community-based facilities for non-violent offenders rather than state prisons, like in many other states, which will save money and focus prison bed space on true public safety issues.
 
“Maurice is living proof that good people who make mistakes deserve a second chance, and I wish everyone could find a strong mentor in the prison system like Maurice did,” said Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr. “In a comprehensive effort to improve public safety and make our system more effective, Gov. Kasich and I put forward a proposal in the state budget that focuses our prisons on the most serious offenders, and ensures that those who would be better served by alternatives to incarceration aren’t tossed behind bars with those convicted of violent crimes. I applaud the members of our legislature on both sides of the aisle who seek proven strategies to lower crime and recidivism rates, and I look forward to working with them toward those very goals.”
 
When Ohio’s prison population hit 130 percent of its capacity in 2015, the legislature appointed the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, a bipartisan effort to overhaul the state’s criminal justice code. The U.S. Justice Action Network kicked off the Ohio legislature’s Recodification Committee effort, standing alongside Piper Kerman (inspiration for Orange is the New Black), leaders from the ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform, and a bipartisan group of legislators. Policies based off the Committee’s efforts have already been filed in the Ohio legislature, such as Senate Bill 66, which expands treatment options and alternatives to incarceration, reforms certain mandatory minimum sentences and the parole system, and expands record-sealing for certain offenders that have proven a commitment to a crime-free life.
 
“Since we launched the Recodification Committee in Ohio, we’ve seen excitement from elected officials in red and blue states all across the country who are pursuing similar reforms,” said Holly Harris, the executive director of the U.S. Justice Action Network. “Ohio legislators have the potential to join national leaders by recommitting to a smarter, more effective justice system, and passing bills like SB 66. And legislators should be reminded that the people of Ohio overwhelmingly favor reform – 89 percent of Ohio voters support reducing prison time for non-violent offenders in favor of stronger community supervision programs, and 87 percent support reforming mandatory minimums sentences.”

Nationally-renowned criminal justice policy expert Robert Alt explained that The Buckeye Institute is working to make Ohio’s system more efficient and effective. “Between 2010 and 2015 alone, the ten states that most significantly reduced their prison populations produced an average 14.4 percent drop in crime. Ohio should implement reforms to do likewise,” said Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute. “The numbers are clear. Ohio legislators have a responsibility to look at the facts about our growing prison population, the impact on public safety, consider how corrections spending impacts taxpayers, and implement evidence-based reforms accordingly.”

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