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Government & Politics

Ohio's Prisons Director Calls For Sentencing Reform, Saying Ohio Can't Afford The Alternatives

Gary Mohr
Gary Mohr says sentencing and drug-law reform makes sense from recidivism and financial perspectives.

The head of Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections says a projected tight state budget is one reason the lawmakers should change sentencing laws and support and make more use of community programs. As WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports, Gary Mohr says the other is the increased chance for success.

Ohio is hitting all-time records for its prison population, and Mohr says more than 8,000 of its prisoners are people serving sentences of less than a year – many on drug possession charges.

He’s pushing for an overhaul of drug laws – including mandatory sentencing --  and diverting non-violent drug-addicted offenders to community treatment. He maintains that’s cheaper and more effective.

“Does it make sense to spend $68 a day sending people to prison, where they have the ability and the likelihood they’re going to gain higher criminogenic interests, and be further detached from their family, jobs and the community at three times the rate of keeping people in the community?"

Mohr also wants to judges to have more latitude in expunging records of low-level offenders. He maintains the alternative to reform will be building and staffing a new prison, which the state cannot afford.

He says reform could divert 3,000 to 4,000 people from prison each year. 

Mohr was one of the speakers at a day-long opioid symposium by the Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery that drew more than 300 people.

Mohr was speaking at an opioid symposium in Stark County. About 12 percent of the men in prison in Ohio – and nearly a quarter of the women -- are there for drug possession.

He says eight counties – including Medina – have agreed to keep offenders sentenced to less than a year in prison in their communities. The state pays the counties $23 per person, about a third what is costs the state to house them.