Criminal law debate focuses on early release, drug addiction


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The latest debate over an update to Ohio’s criminal justice laws has focused on early release for inmates and a measure protecting overdose victims from prosecution.

Under current state law, certain inmates can be released into halfway houses or other community settings with six months left on their sentence, but judges can deny that release if an inmate’s overall sentence was two years or less.

Oftentimes, inmates serving short sentences whose early release is denied have already violated probation multiple times and a judge has determined early placement in the community has failed, Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

Proposed language allowing Ohio prison officials to grant early release without judges’ input undermines local decisions that full prison sentences are the best option, Tobin said.

The Ohio Public Defenders’ Office disagreed, arguing the proposed change properly puts decisions in the hands of corrections experts.

Prosecutors also oppose a measure shielding drug overdose victims from charges for possessing “drug paraphernalia,” an expansion of a Good Samaritan law meant to encourage people to seek help for themselves or others who are overdosing.

The ACLU of Ohio supports the update.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press

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