Sentencing-overhaul battle brewing in...

Sentencing-overhaul battle brewing in Senate

There are 13 comments on the Columbus Dispatch story from Jun 13, 2009, titled Sentencing-overhaul battle brewing in Senate. In it, Columbus Dispatch reports that:

A much-debated criminal-sentencing overhaul that would allow some inmates to earn early-release credit is heading for a showdown in an Ohio Senate committee next week.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Columbus Dispatch.

Observer

Miami, FL

#1 Jun 13, 2009
This is the problem with this country, to much baby handling with criminals. If you make the very first sentence stiff there would be less thought about whether should I do it or shouldn't I. The state and cities and counties are so over whelmed with soical service programs and cost there isn't enough money to handle it. While the prison system get more money the house these people they are trying to find ways to put them back in population where it is definitely going to happen again no matter what program you put them in. You are not going to keep people from killing, or robbing etc... until there is stiffer penalties and a better economic situation for people to work and help themselves.
Tom-R2

Galion, OH

#2 Jun 13, 2009
I don't agree with some of Observer's comments. I would like for him or her to show when in history increased penalties have reduced crime. Not now, nor any time throughout history have we seen punishment have a strong deterrent effect on the criminal element.(The threat of punishment only seems to have limited deterrent effects on those prone to lawful behavior in the first place).

With almost 60% of the prison inmates being released each year anyway (due to mostly short prison sentences) these folks are already coming out into our society. If true changes are not made in their beliefs and behavior, they will come out basically the same as they went in. Credible research has shown positive results in certain programs. We need to objectively consider our incarceration options based on facts and research findings, not emotions.

No one wants criminals released into their neighborhoods. In that, we are all in agreement. But as our legislature defines more and more behavior as criminal, many who's conduct in the past was simply irritating is now criminal. We can't afford to pay to keep inmates locked up.

This is a complex issue that has been studied. Just as in medicine and other scientific areas, the experts are the best position to see what works, and more importantly, what doesn't. The next time you get sick, are you going to go to a doctor, or are you going to consult a petroleum engineer? As a lay person (I presume you are not a doctor ...) do you know more about medicine than a typical doctor? Our prison system has a large number of folks with Masters degrees and PH.Ds who are experts in their field. The public and legislature should let the experts have a large voice in public punishment just as the medical field relies on doctors for medical direction.
Observer

Miami, FL

#3 Jun 14, 2009
Tom-R2 wrote:
I don't agree with some of Observer's comments. I would like for him or her to show when in history increased penalties have reduced crime. Not now, nor any time throughout history have we seen punishment have a strong deterrent effect on the criminal element.(The threat of punishment only seems to have limited deterrent effects on those prone to lawful behavior in the first place).
With almost 60% of the prison inmates being released each year anyway (due to mostly short prison sentences) these folks are already coming out into our society. If true changes are not made in their beliefs and behavior, they will come out basically the same as they went in. Credible research has shown positive results in certain programs. We need to objectively consider our incarceration options based on facts and research findings, not emotions.
No one wants criminals released into their neighborhoods. In that, we are all in agreement. But as our legislature defines more and more behavior as criminal, many who's conduct in the past was simply irritating is now criminal. We can't afford to pay to keep inmates locked up.
This is a complex issue that has been studied. Just as in medicine and other scientific areas, the experts are the best position to see what works, and more importantly, what doesn't. The next time you get sick, are you going to go to a doctor, or are you going to consult a petroleum engineer? As a lay person (I presume you are not a doctor ...) do you know more about medicine than a typical doctor? Our prison system has a large number of folks with Masters degrees and PH.Ds who are experts in their field. The public and legislature should let the experts have a large voice in public punishment just as the medical field relies on doctors for medical direction.
HI Tom thanks for your input, I always like to see intelligent responses and I agree with most of what your saying but in studying and following the re-entry rate of criminals all that has been done for them is the ability to have 3 squares and a cot for nothing and when they are released because these highly educated people cannot reform them and society as a hole won't hire them they end up commiting the crimes again because it is easier to live in there where they do not have to compete for jobs or worry about paying rent and bills. If you look into the prison system or jail system there are more repeat offenders than ever. Thanks again for your thoughts. Have a Great Day.
Tom-R2

Galion, OH

#4 Jun 14, 2009
Part of the reason there is no real programming process is that since 1996 with the passage of SB2, inmates are serving definite sentences. While this appeases the sense of 'fairness' that everyone serves the same penalty for the same crime, it doesn't give the corrections department as much control over behavior as before. If inmates had to reach certain benchmarks before their release, things like obtaining a GED, realistic participation in anger management and substance abuse, and working through a 'step-down' correctional facility before being released under supervision into the community, their return rates would be reduced, and they would more easily be in a position to positively contribute to society. Instead, they have a release date and the knowledge that they don't have to do anything to be released except wait it out. So, they are eventually released unchanged from when they arrived, other than being 23 months older. Not a benefit to society other than the knowledge they were gone for 23 months.
We know realistic programming works. Under the current budgeting difficulties, DRC has reduced a large number of staff (just over 700 positions were eliminated last June) and cut many programs. Currently, even if an inmate wanted to participate in a program, he or she probably couldn't get in due to the waiting list, if their sentence was even long enough to allow them to complete the program in the first place. Going back to my original response - deterrence doesn't work very well. A couple of hundred years ago there were approximately 160 offenses that carried the penalty of death. Pickpocketers were hung at the gallows to the cheering crowds, all the while pickpocketers were working the crowds. What sense does it make for them to be doing the same things that a few feet away, someone is getting his neck stretched for the same acts??? It doesn't make sense, yet occured over and over.
The news media tends to inflame the public with sensational reports of crimes. While not minimizing the impact of violent and property crimes on the victims, some rarely occurring criminal acts can sometimes receive unprecedented levels of coverage in the news, followed by unprecedented levels of attention by the legislature. A case in point - how prevalent in society is it for a guy to collect urine and drink it? Pretty rare, the way I see it. Yet it was news for off and on several weeks, then the legislature spent a huge amount of time creating and debating various wordings for a law to prohibit what one person does. All the while we faced a huge economic budget problem. The legislature then spend time considering whether or not all of the legislature members should have the authority to marry folks - again all the while we faced a huge economic budget problem. They have criminalized several types of behavior that was not criminal behavior in the past just to prove they are 'tough on crime'. Let's hope someone doesn't release a story that most bank robbers wear green shirts or some legislator will sponsor a bill making it a felony 4 to wear a green shirt into a bank.
We need legislative and programmatic reforms if we are going to effectively change behavior and responsibly reduce our prison population. At a recent meeting of the Sentencing Commission of Ohio, the Director of DRC bluntly pointed out that he could manage 50 prisons just as easily as 30 we currently have if the population continues to rise. But who will pay for it? Just to bring our current prison population to 100% capacity, we would need to build approximately 7 new prisons, each holding 1800-2000 inmates. I would imagine it would cost $50-$60 million each,(possibly more) just to build, and an institution this side today takes $32-$40 million each to operate. That would just bring us current - by the time we would begin that building project, we would be behind as our population would continue to rise, again taking us past the 100% population mark.
Tom-R2

Galion, OH

#5 Jun 14, 2009
Continued:

The news media and easy access to criminal records have fanned public fears of released inmates. But if these folks who are released can't find housing or employment, can't afford transportation, how can we realistically expect them to exist, let alone positively contribute to society? It costs approximately $25,000/year to house each inmate (higher at max security, less at minimum security) within the institution. They contribute zero to society (although much less criminal acts are committed). If they can be released on realistic supervision, live on their own and have a job, the cost is greatly reduced and they are positively contributing through supervision fees and taxes. Supervision fees can pay for most if not all of the basic supervision fees. If they are so disenfranchised that they can't exist, what realistic alternatives do they have???????
There is a small, hard-core group of inmates that should never be released. That is who should be the primary group within the prison system, housed separately from those who come in for lesser crimes, and are involved in programming. We can make a difference, but it takes time, money, effort, and cooperation/understanding both from the public and the legislature. Otherwise, DRC is obligated to simply house these offenders until they reach their release date. A generation ago, a sociologist released a report (since then it has generally been discredited) that stated "nothing works". This caught the criminal justice agencies and academic departments by surprise. A closer examination revealed that "what was being done didn't work". We are back in that position today - what we are currently doing is not working effectively. Just as a car owner who has no money can't buy new plates, insurance or gas for his car, the prisons can't buy the levels of programming and mandate certain levels of compliance under the current situation. The car owner can't drive his car, even though he owns it. Likewise, we can't improve the beliefs and behavior of the of inmate population, although we own the prison. Until DRC received the commitment of the legislature through $$$$$$(currently difficult under the budget) and commitments from the public to assist in the reintegration of releasees, we will continue to have the growing problems of recidivism.
INMATESMOTHER

AOL

#7 Jun 14, 2009
Being a constant visitor to the correctional instution where my son is housed I see young men that are very worthy of being send home to their families. these men made a wrong judgement to committ a crime and was handed the strick sentence that keeps locked away from the people who want to help them. the punsihment does not aways fit the crime. just because someone wrote down that a sentence should be the same for everyone. the judges that hand out the strickest sentences are the ones who should have to help pay to feed and house these men. Some will never put their families thru the nightmare of wondering if they are safe, if they are hungry or warm enought again. the prisons have no programs to keep these men busy. would you want to work for $20.00 a month. I know that justice isnt fair and the little man takes the blame. the truth in sentencing law should be thrown out. that is why so many are serving long drawn out sentences. i am talking about the non-volient offenders not the murders,child molester or rapists.
people make mistakes in life and some will never repeat their mistakes. there are many who deserve a second chance to make the life meaningful.
Tom-R2

Galion, OH

#8 Jun 14, 2009
INMATESMOTHER wrote:
Being a constant visitor to the correctional instution where my son is housed I see young men that are very worthy of being send home to their families. these men made a wrong judgement to committ a crime and was handed the strick sentence that keeps locked away from the people who want to help them. the punsihment does not aways fit the crime. just because someone wrote down that a sentence should be the same for everyone. the judges that hand out the strickest sentences are the ones who should have to help pay to feed and house these men. Some will never put their families thru the nightmare of wondering if they are safe, if they are hungry or warm enought again. the prisons have no programs to keep these men busy. would you want to work for $20.00 a month. I know that justice isnt fair and the little man takes the blame. the truth in sentencing law should be thrown out. that is why so many are serving long drawn out sentences. i am talking about the non-volient offenders not the murders,child molester or rapists.
people make mistakes in life and some will never repeat their mistakes. there are many who deserve a second chance to make the life meaningful.
Inmatesmom - your comments are echoed by many every day. There is truth on both sides of the sentencing equation, just as there is inequities on both.

Don't blame the judges too harshly up front, their hands are tied by the legislature. They have to hand out sentences that are spelled out within the law. If a conviction calls for a sentence of say, 2.5 years, the judge can't change it to 6 months if he likes the person, or decides they need a break. It is not so simple as saying, then they don't need to be the judge because whoever is elected to sit in the chair must hand down that sentence on conviction. The best ways to help change things are to contact your legislature representative and lat your thoughts be known. The prison system knows better than most that we should not have many of the inmates we currently have locked up. Your frustrations are part of what this current discussion is about.

Best of luck to you and your family.
LBG

Zanesville, OH

#9 Jun 15, 2009
The people who are against the passage of this bill should be made to spend some time inside some of these prisons and I bet they would change their minds. Prisoners are still people and should be treated with dignity and respect. Seven toilet stalls in dorms for over 200 people is inhumane and disgraceful when you have to stand in line for two hours just to use the restroom. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Have a heart and some compassion and imagine you or your loved ones being in the same position. There but for the grace of God goes any of us. Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.
extremely concerned

Marietta, OH

#10 Jun 17, 2009
as a family member of someone housed in an ohio prison at this moment , i am informed of the conditions currently in the prison system , it is just not safe for anyone , and the climbing and numbers of inmates makes it even harder it is only by the faith of god these inmates have not turned on the staff , the conditions are in humaine for anyone , one paticular prison chillicothe correctional , there are only 300 bathroom facilities and 3,000 prisoners on any given day you can find human feces all over the floor and walls and on a hot day the stinch is incrediable. not only in mentioning that my husband wondered why they always toasted there bread before they gave it out , well one day he tore up his bread , just to find the bread was all molded and they had toasted it to cover up the mold he has had several stomch problems relating to the food they barely feed them , and not that long ago a young man of the age of 40 just killed over of course prison officials had it dissmissed as natural causes, but the inmates knew better , something needs to be done and soon people are dying and getting deathly sick because of ohios lack of responsibility to take care of the people they themselves put there now some of them deserve it but alot of these guys just need counselers and psychotherapy and honestly after being housed like this i am more than sure there may be a retalliation..i hope you know what your doing ,
Tom-R2

Galion, OH

#11 Jun 17, 2009
Comments to this forum are OK, but you also need to write to your state representatives and express your desire that they support the proposed changes DRC had placed before them. Be sure to address your comments to the representative who covers where you live. We need to reduce the numbers of folks who do not belong in prison, and emphasize keeping those who really need locked up right where they are. The sooner the prison system can reduce their population by removing those who don't need to be there, they can concentrate on those who remain, and the savings can be redirected back to positive things in our society, like improving education and other positive public services.
INMATESMOTHER

AOL

#12 Jun 21, 2009
Tom-R2 wrote:
<quoted text>
Inmatesmom - your comments are echoed by many every day. There is truth on both sides of the sentencing equation, just as there is inequities on both.
Don't blame the judges too harshly up front, their hands are tied by the legislature. They have to hand out sentences that are spelled out within the law. If a conviction calls for a sentence of say, 2.5 years, the judge can't change it to 6 months if he likes the person, or decides they need a break. It is not so simple as saying, then they don't need to be the judge because whoever is elected to sit in the chair must hand down that sentence on conviction. The best ways to help change things are to contact your legislature representative and lat your thoughts be known. The prison system knows better than most that we should not have many of the inmates we currently have locked up. Your frustrations are part of what this current discussion is about.
Best of luck to you and your family.
thank you for your concern to our family.
i have contacted my state reps as you suggested.
i am praying each day that someone higher will see the trouble that the prison system is in.
too many children are being effected by the loss of a father or mother to these harsh laws for non voilent offenders. these children can learn for their parents mistakes. The lawmakers should go into these prisons and see first hand how the inmates are treated. Maybe then they would see that there has to be something done to ease the problem created by overcrowding the prisons.
there are other ways to punish the offenders.
i am not saying that there should be no punshment for offenders. everyone needs to be responsible for their actions. handing out seven year sentences for possisson is extremely harsh while a sentence for throwing someone out of a car on the interstate and running them dowm like an animal is four years. how can this be justice.
the punishment does not always need to be one size fits all.
INMATESMOTHER

AOL

#13 Jun 21, 2009
Tom-R2 wrote:
Continued:
The news media and easy access to criminal records have fanned public fears of released inmates. But if these folks who are released can't find housing or employment, can't afford transportation, how can we realistically expect them to exist, let alone positively contribute to society? It costs approximately $25,000/year to house each inmate (higher at max security, less at minimum security) within the institution. They contribute zero to society (although much less criminal acts are committed). If they can be released on realistic supervision, live on their own and have a job, the cost is greatly reduced and they are positively contributing through supervision fees and taxes. Supervision fees can pay for most if not all of the basic supervision fees. If they are so disenfranchised that they can't exist, what realistic alternatives do they have???????
There is a small, hard-core group of inmates that should never be released. That is who should be the primary group within the prison system, housed separately from those who come in for lesser crimes, and are involved in programming. We can make a difference, but it takes time, money, effort, and cooperation/understanding both from the public and the legislature. Otherwise, DRC is obligated to simply house these offenders until they reach their release date. A generation ago, a sociologist released a report (since then it has generally been discredited) that stated "nothing works". This caught the criminal justice agencies and academic departments by surprise. A closer examination revealed that "what was being done didn't work". We are back in that position today - what we are currently doing is not working effectively. Just as a car owner who has no money can't buy new plates, insurance or gas for his car, the prisons can't buy the levels of programming and mandate certain levels of compliance under the current situation. The car owner can't drive his car, even though he owns it. Likewise, we can't improve the beliefs and behavior of the of inmate population, although we own the prison. Until DRC received the commitment of the legislature through $$$$$$(currently difficult under the budget) and commitments from the public to assist in the reintegration of releasees, we will continue to have the growing problems of recidivism.
the governor of Cal. wants to let the illegals out of his prison. that would be ok if he sends them back across the borders that they came from. let out the LEGAL moms and dads that have a right to reenter the population and be productive to their families.
Observer

Miami, FL

#14 Jun 21, 2009
First off if the inmates didn't do anything to constitute incarceration then they would not be there. As for the filth the make that on their own. They are adults living in a situation they put themselves in. But in regards to the food I think there should be an outside quality assurance/inspector there at all times to ensure proper food. As we know they officals in the jails and prisons are not what they should be in fact some should be behind the bars themselves.

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