Want to Get Tough on Heroin in Ohio? Spare the Rod


You may have heard the phrase “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” – but does “sparing the rod” aka “foregoing discipline” really do more harm than good? Many in Ohio are arguing that the best way to combat the heroin problem is to offer treatment in lieu of prison.

Many drug offenders in Ohio are also addicts with deeper problems, problems that imprisonment isn’t really equipped to address. By sending drug offenders to prison without treatment, recidivism rates have worsened – meaning more drug offenders are getting out of prison and ending right back in a short time later.

The number of heroin overdose deaths is also on the rise in the Buckeye State. While tragic, these deaths have helped light a fire under state legislators to find solutions. While legislators have an increased sense of urgency to combat the problem, many are concerned that their efforts are misplaced.

Legislators are considering a bill that would increase criminal penalties for heroin possession, putting drug offenders in prison for longer periods and also making it easier to put people away for “major drug offenses.” The bill, H.B. 171, already cleared the lower chamber last year by a wide margin.

If passed, H.B. 171 would make possession of 100 grams of heroin or more a “major drug offense,” reduced from the current threshold of 250 grams. Currently, there is a mandatory 11-year sentence for major drug offenders.

Opponents of the bill argue that it uses the same tactics to combat drug crimes that have been in use for decades with little to no positive effect. They claim that legislators need to be doing more to fund addiction services so that drug offenders can receive treatment rather than harsh prison sentences.

The heroin problem in Ohio and elsewhere in the United States comes down to basic economics – supply and demand. Until we address the “demand” side of the problem, drug offenses and overdose deaths will continue to be a problem. Let’s put our public resources where they can do the most good. Treating addicts can reduce the demand, which can in turn reduce the number of overall offenses.

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