State Issue 1 is a terribly flawed proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on Ohio ballots at the general election on November 6, 2018. If passed, State Issue 1 will amend the Ohio Constitution to reclassify certain felony drug offenses to misdemeanor offenses, release serious felons from prison early, and to immediately release certain drug offenders from prison while allegedly increasing funding for drug treatment and rehabilitation. State Issue 1 is the wrong way to achieve the stated goals of the proposal’s proponents, and there are several reasons why.
1. Heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and other “hard” drugs are dangerous, the possession of which should not be reclassified as misdemeanor offenses, especially when those misdemeanor offenses carry no possibility of jail time. If State Issue 1 passes, a person must be convicted of three drug possession offenses within two years before a judge can sentence that person to jail. A person who possesses enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people should be sentenced to prison, not probation with no possibility of jail. Without the threat of incarceration, there will be no incentive for many addicts to enter into rehabilitation, and dangerous drugs, such as heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil, will become more prevalent in Ohio as out-of-state traffickers flood our communities to peddle their poison.
2. Serious and violent criminals—those who commit certain sex offenses, assault, kidnapping, burglary, human trafficking, and arson, amongst other offenses—will be eligible to have their sentences reduced by up to 25% if they participate in certain programming while in prison. There is no requirement that the prisoner successfully complete the programing or graduate from a program. Instead, a prisoner need only participate with apparently no greater expectation than to show up. Without a guarantee that such programming contributes to a prisoner’s rehabilitation, such program-based sentence reductions should not be written into our constitution, particularly when the sentence reduction is as much as 25%.
3. The judicial system already uses drug treatment and rehabilitation to help addicts charged with criminal offenses. Drug treatment and rehabilitation is already available to addicts to voluntarily enter into if not charged with criminal offenses. State Issue 1 will not require anyone to enter into drug treatment or rehabilitation and will limit judges’ ability to force defendants to enter into such programs. Fewer people will receive the drug treatment and rehabilitation they need if State Issue 1 passes.
4. The alleged savings by reducing the state’s prison population is drastically overstated. In fact, a recent study actually determined that alleged savings will be minimal and could actually cost the state tens of millions of dollars, most of which will be passed onto local governments.
5. State Issue 1 proposes an amendment to Ohio’s constitution, and once part of the Constitution, it can only be changed, amended, or removed by another vote of the populace, which will prove difficult if not impossible to accomplish. We elect legislators to draft laws that establish penalties for drug offenses. Those who wish to change Ohio’s sentencing laws should work with our legislators to change the Ohio Revised Code instead of changing Ohio’s Constitution.
These are just a few of the many reasons why State Issue 1 is a bad idea. While providing greater access to drug treatment and rehabilitation is an admirable goal, State Issue 1 is the wrong way to accomplish this goal, and its wide-ranging impact will prove disastrous to Meigs County and the State of Ohio. Vote NO on State Issue 1.
James K. Stanley
Meigs County Prosecuting Attorney