LIMA — David Little, director of special projects for State Issue 1 and Derek Bauman, a retired police officer from Mason, believe the passage of State Issue 1 will benefit the state of Ohio by reducing the number of people in prison. They also feel that there is misinformation being conveyed by others regarding the measure.
The opiate crisis is a major factor in 730,000-plus Ohioans signing a petition to get State Issue 1 on the ballot.
“The leadership in Ohio throughout the last decade had their head in the sand on this issue and have done not much of anything, to now where we’re No. 2 in the nation per capita in overdose deaths — almost 5,000 last year. It’s a crisis,” said Bauman.
“The state legislature has simply been idle,” said Little.
Ohio’s prisons are now overcrowded with non-violent drug offenders. According to Bauman, the prison population was 12,000-14,000 in 1980, now it is four times that — over 50,000 — or around 130 percent of capacity.
“The idea that anyone who is in prison and would be released willy-nilly is nonsense. It would only be people who have been incarcerated for a non-violent crime, with no record of violence or discipline issues while in prison. The idea is when people leave prison, we want them to be a successful citizen. So the idea of Issue 1, part of that is let them study, let them learn a trade, let them get a degree, let them have drug treatment and everything they do that makes them a potentially more productive citizen,” said Little. “The goal is to decrease prison population permanently by putting people on a better road.”
There would be savings to non-violent drug offenders not being sent to prison.
“Some studies show the savings would be over $100 million a year. There is a formula in the amendment that would dictate 15 percent would go to judicial to manage, the bulk would go to drug treatment and mental health services and some of that funds would go to victims who were a victim of a crime,” said Little. “It would be up to the legislature to create the mechanism and use the existing bureaucracy to funnel that money to cities and counties across the state.”
A non-violent drug offender could still face jail time, just not prison, under the terms of State Issue 1.
“You still have a jail on the menu in terms of potential punishment or options a judge would have under a misdemeanor situation. It’s just not prison. So there is a confinement option there and available,” said Bauman.
Passing a constitutional amendment “whether it’s successful or fails, pushes the legislature in a direction that they were unwilling to take,” according to Little.
“My submission is that what we’ve been doing is not working, and myself and many other Ohioans are ready to go a different direction since our legislature has failed us,” said Bauman. “I’ve seen the crisis that we’re having in our communities. It’s impacting families and neighborhoods, and in my estimation, what we have been doing is a complete and utter failure.”
Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.