In 2011, Ohio’s prisons were operating 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.
Ohio’s Justice Reinvestment legislation, House Bill (HB) 86, was signed into law in 2011. HB 86 included changes to sentencing, reclassification of some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, a new judicial release option when a person has served at least 80 percent of their prison sentence, and risk-reduction sentencing. To that end, Ohio worked across agencies to put into place policy and practice changes.1
As a result of its JRI legislation, Ohio successfully reduced its prison population at a critical time, averting growth in its prisons by approximately 2,900 people.2 Ohio also supported evidence-based changes to community supervision and expanded treatment resources to ensure that officers could focus their resources on individuals at a high risk of reoffending.
JRI-Driven Policies and Practices
- Reclassify/redefine drug offenses
- Reclassify/redefine property offenses
- Establish/expand presumptive probation for some offenses
- Reduce crack/powder cocaine disparity
- Authorize or expand risk-reduction sentencing or incentive sentences
- Expand good-time/earned-time prison credits/reentry leave
- Authorize performance incentive funding
- Establish mandatory reentry sentencing
- Require/improve risk-needs assessment
- Require evidence-based practices
- Improve behavioral health interventions
- Require data collection/performance measures
Ohio continued to face several criminal justice challenges. In 2017, even though the state’s total crime rate had decreased in recent years, the number of murders and aggravated assaults was rising, and the use of opioids and other substances was overwhelming local communities, causing the arrest and imprisonment of people for drug offenses to increase. The state’s capacity to invest resources in tackling these local public safety challenges was also hindered by high corrections spending and a large prison population.
To address these challenges, in September 2017, Ohio embarked on a second Justice Reinvestment Initiative with the CSG Justice Center to conduct a comprehensive analysis of data, develop policy options to improve access to effective behavioral health supports and services for people in the justice system, reduce crime, and adopt more cost-effective sentencing, corrections, and supervision policies. These policies were not ultimately considered by the full legislature, but similar legislation may be introduced in future sessions.
For more information, see Justice Reinvestment in Ohio.
Other JRI-Funded Projects
In Ohio, in partnership with the CSG Justice Center, the state committed to a system-level approach to better data across their criminal justice system and received intensive short-term technical assistance as a Founding State in the Justice Counts initiative.
1 The Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2023, Justice Reinvestment in Ohio, New York, NY: The Council of State Governments Justice Center, retrieved May 19, 2023 from https://csgjusticecenter.org/projects/justice-reinvestment/past-states/ohio/.