Governor John Kasich plans to cut the state’s prison budget and send many inmates back to the county level. While the move would likely save the state some serious money, the counties aren’t completely confident that they could handle the influx of offenders. The state has reassured the counties that it will provide funding, but some remain unconvinced.
Kasich’s plan has been passed by the House and is currently pending in the Ohio Senate. It would allow first time nonviolent criminal offenders in Ohio to avoid prison by serving probation or a sentence within a community facility. This is a trend that’s taking place across the nation as states look to save money and also begin accepting the notion that hard time isn’t always the best solution for low level offenders.
The plan would also release nonviolent inmates that have served 85% of their sentence, and have them supervised at a local level by probation/parole officers. This move could potentially assist the offenders in their reentry, offering support while they readjust to living on the “outside” and even potentially reduce recidivism.
Community supports are crucial, however, in making community supervision (both probation and post-release) successful. Such programs, when handled correctly, decrease the chances that an offender will reoffend and they also allow them to stay close to home, where their families often depend on them.
But those community supports might not be able to handle the number of state inmates the proposed changes would send their way. Halfway houses and treatment agencies are all concerned that they will be overwhelmed with the changes.
The state has reassured them that $10 million will go to the counties to help them cope with the changes, but it isn’t clear if this will be enough nor if counties will have enough time to get the expanded supports in place.
There’s no question this plan could save the state money. According to The Plain Dealer, it costs the state $24,494 to house an offender in prison and only $10.030 to house them in a community based facility. Even more cost effective, it costs $5,801 to house someone in a halfway house.
In order for the changes to work the counties must have supports in place when the changes occur. Releasing nonviolent offenders into communities that aren’t prepared will no doubt leave some without the treatment and supervision that they need for success.
There are such community treatment and housing programs currently available. Even before the new changes happen, people accused of crimes can often take advantage of these resources when encountered by a progressive judge who doesn’t see them as a risk to themselves or the community.
If you are charged with a crime and are curious about the options you have, contact our attorneys today.