Greenspan holds roundtable on criminal justice

State Rep. Nathan Manning (R-District 55), chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee, joined Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-District 16) for a roundtable discussion at Bay Library on March 20.  Rep. Manning talked about legislation before his committee and answered questions from an audience of five local officials and seven citizens.

Legislation

Examples included:

  • HB30 – Add prison term if permanently disable victim
  • HB38 – Increase penalty for murder or assault of certain persons
  • HB56 – Expunge criminal record if caused by human trafficking
  • HB63 – Add prison term if disfigure or incapacitate victim
  • HB81 – Prohibit death sentence if have serious mental illness
  • HB95 – Enhance penalty for moving violations while distracted
  • HB109 – Increase penalty if offend against elderly or disabled

Some bills are introduced in response to specific cases. Rep. Manning acknowledged that this can result in overly complex laws. Moreover, some argue that judges already have discretion to impose a range of penalties to fit a crime. Another philosophical question is whether to increase the penalty for a crime, or the level of the crime – for example, whether a misdemeanor should be a felony, or a misdemeanor in a higher degree.

The last General Assembly started to recodify Ohio's criminal laws. The commission report is expected out in the next several months and may be broken into two sets of recommendations: clarifications and changes in substance.

Prisons

Ohio is fourth in the country in prison population, and first in the number of people on probation. The state's jails and prisons are about 11,000 over their 50,000-person capacity. Beds are simply added to existing cells in order to accommodate new prisoners. This presents dangers for both inmates and guards.

Including administrative costs, each prisoner costs Cuyahoga County $85-$100 a day. Edward Kraus, Director of Regional Collaboration and a former prosecutor, noted that with the help of an Arnold Foundation grant, the county wants to shift bail to a risk-based assessment, so that defendants likely to flee or do harm are retained, while low-risk individuals can return to the community and their jobs while awaiting trial.

There is currently no legislative measure to privatize prisons.

Opiate Crisis

After the biennial budget has passed, a task force will be constituted to address the opiate crisis. Possible measures include education, treatment, inpatient admission, medication and establishing regional detox centers. Rep. Greenspan noted that it is an economic as well as a human problem: if businesses cannot find job applicants who can pass a drug test, they will not locate in or move to Ohio.

Other Issues

Fairview Park Police Chief Erich Upperman discussed the need to help fund MARCS radios, especially for smaller safety departments that have already been hit with reductions in local government funding. The relative efficacy of enhancing suicide prevention programs versus adding fencing to bridges was also discussed.

Next Roundtables

Rep. Greenspan plans to hold discussions featuring issues before each of the Ohio House's standing committees at 10 a.m. on Mondays. Next up: State & Local Government Issues, April 10 at the Fairview Park Library.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:24 AM, 04.04.2017