A new law in Ohio State provides that low-level, non-violent offenders in Butler County could go to jail rather than being sentenced to prison. This new law will take effect July 2018.
Low-Level, Non-Violent Offenders Get Break in Butler County
Fifth degree felony such as burglary, drug related offenses, and some other non-violent offenders would be sent to jail instead of prison. To this extent, sex and violent offenders will not be eligible to this new provision.
The overall objective is to get low-level, non-violent offenders into community programs.
The new understanding is that community programs and jails rehabilitate offenders much more than prisons. But there is also the monetary cost to the county.
Sending people to jails and community programs will cost Butler County between $2.7 million to $3.8 million.
About 197 Offenders Who Ought To Be In Jail Now Are Currently In Prison Facility
The new law means that court judges are no longer empowered to send low level offenders to jails. While some people hail the new law as revolutionary, others find as plain unhelpful. Common Pleas Court Judge Keith Spaeth says the new law is bad news for everyone in the county and for the county budget.
The new law was passed when the biennial budget for Ohio State came up. Common Pleas Court Administrator Wayne Gilkison revealed that under the new law, about 197 offenders who ought to be at the Butler County Jail are currently in prison.
It must be clarified that a county or city jail is only a holding place, as opposed to a prison facility. Low level offenders are usually sentenced to jails when convicted of offenses, or housed in jails until they clear trials.
A prison facility on the other hand is managed by federal and state governments, and house offenders already sentenced for their crimes. A prison or penitentiary is supposed to be a correctional institution, while a jail is supposed to be a rehabilitative center.
Arguments For and Against New Butler County Legislation
Katrina Wilson, coordinator for Butler-Warren Reentry Coalition supports the new legislation. According to Wilson, there is no basis for fears that the program will enable violent offenders to return back to the community. Or that the program will pose a security risk to members of the community.
“If we do not find a fix to the problem of over-committing low level, non-violent offenders, we will not have room in our jails and prisons for violent offenders who pose real threats to society,” Wilson stated.
But Judge Spaeth is not bound to agree that the new law has any positives. It limits and handicaps judges from ridding the community of negative elements, and removes the threat that prison poses to potential offenders:
“The only way to force people into treatment, into community corrections, is to have the leverage, the threat of prison,” Judge Spaeth. “So it’s a carrot and a stick. If you want judges to force people into drug treatment and into mental health treatment and into compliance, then you have to give them the stick to be able to persuade people to do those things.”