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ALCU Says Ohio Lawmakers Not Helping To Lower Prison Population, Even During COVID

Though last year state lawmakers were caught up mostly in COVID and the scandal involving former Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and the nuclear bailout law, there were still a lot of bills that sought to toughen penalties on crime. And advocates for the state’s inmates say prisons are still overcrowded, and nothing’s being done about that.

In its third edition of the "Statehouse to Prison Pipeline" report, the civil liberties group looked over 1,194 bills proposed in the last two-year session of the Ohio General Assembly. The group has issued reports in 2017 and 2019.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says nearly a tenth of those almost 2,000 bills proposed in the 133rd General Assembly could have sent more people to prisons. But only nine were enacted.

Gary Daniels with the ACLU of Ohio said none of the proposed measures were "big bills" that would have imprisoned a lot more people. But he’s also concerned about those that would make serious crimes out of actions taken by a small number of offenders - which the report calls "mass incarceration by a thousand cuts".

“That 10 over here and five over there and 15 over there – that’s part of how we get to this larger problem is not only those big bills but the constant onslaught of smaller bills," Daniels said.

But Daniels also said there were no bills to reduce lower the prison population, though at least 130 inmates and 10 prison staff have died of COVID in the last year.

“Not a single one of those almost 1200 bills had anything to do with our prison population and getting people out of prison and making our prisons safer as a result of the ongoing human rights crisis in Ohio prisons as it relates to COVID-19," Daniels said.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau

Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.