Keith Faber: Issue 1 isn’t the criminal justice reform Ohio needs
Oct. 7, 2018
Ohio’s jails and prisons are overflowing and costing Ohio billions of dollars. At the same time, we are battling a drug and addiction crisis like we have never seen. Reform is undeniably needed.
However, as The Blade wisely noted in an editorial, legislatively directed criminal justice reform and Ohio drug courts are the solution — not the proposed constitutional amendment, Issue 1.
In addition to other far-reaching provisions, Issue 1 reduces the purchase, use or possession of drugs like fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and even carfentanil from a felony to a misdemeanor that can carry no jail time. In fact, under the proposal, an individual with enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people or shockingly an individual with enough carfentanil to kill nearly 1 million people could only be charged with a misdemeanor that can’t carry jail time for their first two offenses. Do you know who carries enough carfentanil to kill 1 million people? Drug dealers.
As a former probation officer, I know that probation and treatment are usually better sanctions than jail for many drug offenders. However, I have grave concerns over the provisions in the proposed amendment that prohibit sending most probation violators to jail. Ohio’s drug court programs, like the successful one here in Lucas County, regularly achieve greater treatment success than unsupervised treatment programs. The threat of jail and other sanctions are a powerful incentive to encourage cooperation and compliance with the court’s probation orders and treatment. If Issue 1 were to pass, the innovative and effective results we’ve seen in Lucas County and other drug courts around the state would be at risk.
Proponents argue that we need to reevaluate our criminal code and re-evaluate the sanctions for nonviolent crimes, but this re-evaluation must be done by a flexible legislative process, not by chiseling the changes in stone within the Ohio Constitution.
Ohio has led the nation in criminal sentencing reform, reducing collateral sanctions, and other innovative rehabilitation methods. In 2015, we created the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, a bipartisan group of 24 experts from across the state to perform a systematic review of Ohio’s criminal laws. The commission spent roughly two years thoroughly analyzing Ohio law and made numerous recommendations to the legislature in the summer of 2017.
The goal was not to be hard or soft on crime, but to be smart on crime. The group put aside its differing political viewpoints and allowed the bigger picture of meaningful reform to take precedence. We will need more of this kind of collaboration to solve our state’s problems.
Together, we can modernize our criminal laws and use our limited state resources wisely to defeat the opioid and addiction epidemic we face. To accomplish those goals responsibly, we cannot put the drastic, dangerous, and nearly unchangeable Issue 1 in Ohio’s constitution.
The unintended consequences of Issue 1 are deadly. I encourage you to join me in voting no on Issue 1 and instead encourage the legislature to continue addressing criminal justice reform.
Mr. Faber is a state senator and the Republican nominee for state auditor.