COVID-19 Assistance for the Justice Community
The ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic requires policymakers and criminal justice practitioners to rapidly adapt their day-to-day operations to the situation at hand. While the pace and scale of the crisis can be overwhelming, the CSG Justice Center is committed more than ever to supporting its members—state and local officials working in all three branches of government in criminal and juvenile justice, behavioral health, housing, and labor.
In partnership with Ohio state leaders, the CSG Justice Center is working on several key criminal justice initiatives to increase public safety, including Face to Face, Stepping Up, and Justice Reinvestment.
Justice Reinvestment in Ohio
In 2017, the CSG Justice Center embarked on a Justice Reinvestment approach in Ohio to help state leaders identify and address the most pressing criminal justice and behavioral health system challenges.
In 2011, Ohio’s prisons were operating at 33 percent over capacity, with about 51,000 people in its facilities, a population that was projected to grow by 3,000 by 2015. From 2010 to 2011, the CSG Justice Center worked with Ohio state leaders to develop data-driven policy options designed to curb prison population growth, reduce corrections spending, and increase public safety. HB 86, Ohio’s justice reinvestment legislation, was signed into law in 2011. As a result, Ohio was able to avert growth in its prisons by approximately 2,900 people.
Ohio continues to face several criminal justice challenges. Despite the fact that the state’s total crime rate has decreased in recent years, the number of murders and aggravated assaults has risen, with individual cities experiencing this increase to varying degrees. The use of opioids and other substances is overwhelming local communities, causing the arrest and imprisonment of people for drug offenses to increase and sparking a need to determine the proper way for the criminal justice system to respond and ensure that treatment and other interventions are accessible and effective. Local probation officers are supervising a large number of people in the community, and although the state supports local supervision officers, the limited amount of county data and information about supervision policies and practices makes it hard for the state to accurately assess local needs and provide targeted support. Finally, the state’s capacity to invest resources in tackling these local public safety challenges is hindered by high corrections spending and a large prison population.
To address these challenges, in July 2017, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Senate President Larry Obhof, House Speaker Clifford Rosenberger, and Attorney General Mike DeWine requested support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) to explore a justice reinvestment approach.
In September 2017, the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission voted to establish the Ohio Justice Reinvestment Committee comprising designees from all three branches of government and state and local criminal justice system stakeholders. Under the direction of the committee, CSG Justice Center staff will conduct a comprehensive analysis of data and help develop policy options that are designed to both increase public safety and contain the cost of corrections. These policy options will be available for the committee’s consideration in late 2018, and recommendations will be provided to the legislature for considering in early 2019.
- Justice Reinvestment in Ohio: Overview (November 9, 2017): This overview outlines several criminal justice challenges in Ohio, including increases in certain types of violent crime in some parts of the state; substance use issues driven by the opioid crisis, which are causing increases in prison admissions; a large probation population; high corrections spending; and a large prison population.
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