What used to be identified largely with a progressive or leftist agenda
is now a bipartisan issue. Lawmakers are putting party politics aside
to pass a reform bill that would
scale back harsh sentencing laws in hopes of reducing the federal prison population and the cost of incarceration.
U.S. Incarceration Rate
The United States incarcerates more of its residents per capita than any
other nation in the world. That’s approximately 716 per every 100,000
residents. Even more shocking is when you consider that the United States
holds about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, and yet houses
22 percent of the world’s prisoners.
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Ohio’s Incarceration Rate
Last year, Ohio’s prison population reached a near record high of
more than 51,000 as of June 30 when the data was collected. By 2019, experts
estimate that Ohio’s prison population will be climbing toward 53,484
– that’s nearly 140 percent higher capacity than Ohio’s
prison system was designed to hold. If you include the population of both
Ohio prisons and jails, the incarceration rate is 780 per 100,000 adults.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences
The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who fairly recently
touted the benefits of mandatory minimum sentencing laws, is now drafting
this bipartisan bill that he hopes can gain the support of both Republicans
and Democrats. One important feature expected to appear in this bipartisan
bill is giving more freedom to judges when it comes to sentencing low-level
drug offenders. The bill, if passed, would allow judges to grant sentences
more lenient than the mandatory minimum prison term provided that the
defendant meets certain requirements.
Congress established the mandatory minimums that we talk about today in
the 1980s when the “war on drugs” was at its peak. These mandatory
minimums are the prime culprit for our nation’s skyrocketing prison
population. Something must be done – a sentiment shared across all
Treatment in Lieu of Harsh Prison Sentences
For many low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, treatment is a more appropriate
punishment for the crime than incarceration. Many municipal courts in
Ohio offer specialty dockets that focus on treatment, rather than penalties.
Franklin County Municipal Court has a specialty drug docket. Over half of Ohio counties
have some form of specialty docket, focusing on defendants in specialty
areas such as
drug addiction, mental illness, alcoholism and
drunk driving, and veterans.
If you or a loved one has been arrested and you are interested in pursuing
treatment, we invite you to contact a Columbus criminal defense lawyer
at Koffel Brininger Nesbitt. We represent individuals throughout Central Ohio, so
contact us today to speak with us about your legal rights and options.