On the Ballot: Ohio Issue 1
By: Caitlyn McIntosh
On November 6 Ohio voters voted on amending the Ohio Constitution. Ohio Issue One, otherwise known as the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment was on the ballot in the midterm election.
The main goal of Issue One was to reduce the penalties for drug offenders. The first step was to require sentence reductions by 25 percent, if the individual agrees to participate in rehabilitation work or education. These reductions do not apply to those offenders convicted of rape, murder, or child molestation.
Inmates would also receive credit of 0.5 days for each day they participate in rehabilitation work. Meaning inmates would get their sentences reduced depending on how many days of rehabilitation they participate in.
Those convicted of obtaining, possessing, or using controlled substances such as fentanyl and heroin will no longer be classified as felonies, the offense will be reduced down to a misdemeanor.
One of Issue One’s biggest goals was to reduce the number of people sitting in jails and prisons for non-violent offenses. Jail time would not be a sentence for drug users, unless it is their third offense within a 24 month period. If the amendment passes, it would also allow those already convicted to ask the court to reduce their sentence.
Instead of prison time, Issue One would create a graduated scale of punishments for non-criminal probation violations. Previously faced with prison time, violators would now face community service, drug treatment, or jail time based on factors such as protecting communities and preventing repeat offenders.
The issue proposed that the funds saved from less people being in prisons would go to state funded rehabilitation programs for offenders in order to reduce rates of reoffending. The operation of prisons currently cost Ohio taxpayers $1.8 billion. If passed, Issue One would have had the potential to save taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
The Ohio Republican party have been very public about their opposition, stating that “Issue One would put our families and communities at risk.”
Mike DeWine, Ohio Attorney General and Republican governor-elect, backs his party’s statement by condemning his opponent Richard Cordray (D).
“If Richard Cordray gets his way and Issue 1 passes, Ohio would end up with some of the most lenient drug laws in the nation, making Ohio a safe haven for drug dealers,” DeWine said.
So far, Issue One had gained $4.8 million in funding from groups like the Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign and the Open Society Policy Center. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are also supporting Issue One with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization whose one of many goals is criminal justice reform.
In 2017, the amount of deaths due to drug overdoses in Ohio reached almost 5,000. Montgomery county is the worst county in the state for drug overdoses with the state of Ohio ranking second in the United States.
Fentanyl and related drugs such as Oxycontin were responsible for over 70% of the overdose deaths in Ohio in 2017.
In 2010, the cost per Ohio inmate was about $68 per day. The largest portion of this cost was for security, a rate of $27.74 per day. About $2 a day was spent on recovery and education services, and as of October 2018 the average cost per inmate per day is $78.47.
One goal of Issue One was to put offenders through more rehabilitation programs over jail time. In 2015 there had been a total of 7,641 people in Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programs, and approximately 3,775 of the individuals successfully completed their programs.
A detailed explanation of the issue is available to voters from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.