AS OHIO SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HEARS TESTIMONY ON “NEXT STEP ACT,” JUSTICE ACTION NETWORK RELEASES NEW POLL SHOWING OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM PACKAGE

Syrita Bowen News, Ohio, Press

Senate Bill 3, Sponsored by Sens. Eklund (R-18) & O’Brien (D-32), Includes Sentencing Reforms, Record Sealing & Expungement Fixes

(Columbus, Ohio) – Today, as the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 3, Ohio’s most significant bipartisan sentencing reform package in years, the Justice Action Network released poll results that show Ohio voters overwhelmingly support major criminal justice reforms, with 87% of respondents supporting sentencing reforms.

Titled “Next Step Ohio,” a nod to the “First Step Act,” federal prison and sentencing reform legislation signed into law by President Trump late last year, Ohio’s Senate Bill 3 reduces penalties for some low-level, non-violent offenses, particularly drug possession offenses. Under the legislation, which is jointly-sponsored by Senators from both sides of the aisle, John Eklund (R-18) and Sean O’Brien (D-32), most possession crimes would be reclassified as misdemeanors rather than felonies. Further, the bill decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana, and limits the use of prison for technical violations of community supervision.

Justice Action Network (JAN), the largest bipartisan organization in the country supporting criminal justice reform at the state and federal level, commissioned a survey of 500 registered Ohio voters, which revealed supermajority, statewide support for criminal justice reforms, including those in Senate Bill 3. The results of the poll accompany testimony from Holly Harris, Executive Director of JAN, who referenced the numbers as she spoke before the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee on the legislation.

“Ohio voters have issued a mandate to legislators, and they are demanding transformational changes to a broken justice system,” said Harris. “Buckeye State voters know we cannot incarcerate our way out of the opioid crisis, and they aren’t ready to throw in the towel on their friends and family members struggling with addiction. Given the massive support in the Justice Action Network poll, and the leadership of Senators Eklund and O’Brien, we feel confident that the Next Step Act will move swiftly through the legislature and to the Governor’s desk.”

“Our chief concern should be public safety, and over the past decade, the states that have most significantly reduced their incarceration rates through the types of reforms in SB 3 have simultaneously lowered their crime rates,” Sen. Eklund explained. “We must ensure the punishment fits the crime in our justice system, because ultimately that will make Ohio a fairer, safer place to live.”

“When we incarcerate people struggling with drug addiction and mental health issues, we throw good money after bad and churn out better criminals rather than better citizens,” said Sen. O’Brien. “I’m proud to work across the aisle toward a system focused on treatment and rehabilitation for those who are sick, reserving incarceration for those who are a threat to others.”

The poll was conducted by leading Republican pollster Robert Blizzard of Public Opinion Strategies:

“Over the last decade, my firm has conducted hundreds of surveys in Ohio on dozens of issues. Criminal justice reform continues to be the one area where voters on the right and the left are overwhelmingly supportive,” Blizzard stated. “Across the ideological spectrum, sentencing reforms and second chance policies poll in the 80s in Ohio, and issues that matter in this significant battleground state rise to national prominence faster than almost anywhere else. So whether you are running for mayor or President of the United States, supporting criminal justice reform in the Buckeye State is a no-brainer.”

Key findings of the poll include:

  • 88% of Ohioans strongly agree the main goal of Ohio’s criminal justice system should be rehabilitating people to become productive, law-abiding citizens.
  • 87% of Ohioans strongly favor allowing people with low-level criminal records, who have remained crime-free for a period of time, to seal or expunge their records so they have a better shot of finding jobs and supporting their families.
  • 87% of Ohioans strongly favor reducing costly prison time for low-level, non-violent offenders in Ohio prisons and re-invest some of those savings to create a stronger, more cost-effective community based supervision programs that hold offenders accountable for their crimes.
  • 84% of Ohioans strongly agree judges should divert people caught with smaller amounts of drugs into treatment, rather than prison, so they have a chance to address their addiction issues.
  • 81% of Ohioans strongly agree some of the money Ohioans are spending on locking up nonviolent offenders, especially low-level drug offenders, should be shifted to alternatives like treatment programs, electronic monitoring, community service, and probation.

Holly Harris’ testimony before the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee can be found HERE, along with the POLLING PRESENTATION.

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