Ohio governor asks judges’ help in reducing prison crowding


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Republican governor is urging Ohio judges who handle felony cases to consider leniency when sentencing repeat, nonviolent offenders as the state deals with packed prisons and an opioid-addiction crisis.

The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2h9F5LD) reports that Gov. John Kasich spoke to the Ohio Common Pleas Judges Association this week and asked judges to do what they can to help reduce the number of people imprisoned for low-level offenses — both inside and outside the courtroom.

In court, that means reconsidering how they approach sentencing. Outside the courtroom, it means working with community and school officials and groups to address the problem of opiate addiction.

Kasich said that despite more resources being dedicated to treating such drug offenders locally, Ohio’s prison population hasn’t dropped. It now exceeds 50,000 inmates, just a few hundred shy of the record high set in 2008.

The governor wants more funding to help divert nonviolent defendants away from prison, as well as changes in criminal sentencing to give judges flexibility to use their judgment.

When a low-level offender violates probation, Kasich asked that the judges consider whether that person might deserve a break rather than being put behind bars.

“We can’t prison ourselves out of this problem . The problem in the Legislature is they worry someone is going to call them soft on crime,” he said.

___

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com