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Government & Politics

Ohio House Passes Treatment Over Prison for Nonviolent Drug Offenses

A photo of the Ohio House in session

The Ohio House has overwhelmingly passed a bill giving courts options to divert those charged with drug crimes away from prison and into treatment programs. It now goes on to the Senate, which also has a drug crimes sentencing reform measure of its own.

The bill, labeled as House Bill 1 to indicate its priority, would expand access to programs for nonviolent drug offenders for treatment instead of conviction or prison. It also would allow for the sealing of some criminal records to help drug offenders get jobs.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Howse supported last year’s failed ballot issue on drug sentencing. She supports this bill as well.

“House Bill 1 gives these Ohioans a second chance to start over and have a real shot at reaching their fullest potential,” Howse said.

Cautious supporters say they’re hoping lawmakers will also pass the Senate’s priority bill that would also overhaul drug sentencing laws.

The Ohio Public Defender’s Office says about 2,600 people are in prison for drug possession, and 1,600 are locked up for possessing drugs in amounts for personal use only.