If you commit a bad enough crime in Ohio and get sent to prison, you become a project for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction.
The name suggests a lofty goal, rehabilitating the lawbreakers in our society. The agency’s stated mission is to “reduce recidivism among those we touch,” according to its website.
It failed when it came to Ross McWay, which means it failed Wendy Jeffers. The 39-year-old Jeffers was found dead inside her home Sunday, and Lima police arrested the 37-year-old McWay in connection to his ex-girlfriend’s death on Wednesday.
McWay spent 13 years in prison for manslaughter for his role in the death of Jimmy Bunley in 2001. He was released in December 2014 and given five years of post-release control.
On March 23, he met a different woman with a history of drug abuse at a local bar. They went to an apartment where they had sex after the woman was unable to pay him for crack cocaine, according to court testimony, but the woman asked him to stop in the middle of the act. Later that evening, the woman said McWay raped her.
A jury acquitted McWay of that rape charge on Jan. 6 after a trial. They couldn’t reach a verdict on a kidnapping charge, and the prosecutor’s office dropped that. The jury couldn’t be convinced the episode wasn’t consensual.
McWay was released from jail on a Friday, and by that Sunday his girlfriend was found dead in her home.
On Friday, McWay’s brother posted on Facebook that McWay told him what he did and was sorry for it. On the same day, a judge set his bond at $2.5 million.
We’ll let the court system figure out his long-term fate. Still, we can’t help but feel like the justice system fell apart.
How could McWay go through 13 years of supposed rehabilitation and allegedly kill someone else within 25 months of his release?
How could prosecutors fall short of presenting an open-and-shut case in the alleged rape case?
How could someone not have noticed that he was potentially so dangerous that he’d face charges within days of release from the county jail?
You can’t help but feel the death of Jeffers had to be preventable. There were too many warning signs. There were too many opportunities to stop it from happening.
Yet here we are, with Jeffers dead and McWay facing another prison sentence if convicted.
This is an opportune time to really consider the rates of people committing crimes after serving prison time. Ohio’s rate is 27.5 percent, below the national average of 49.7, according to a 2015 report. Still, we need that number to be as low as possible. We need people to learn their lessons while locked away.
We need this to protect people from becoming the victim of another supposedly rehabilitated inmate.