POMEROY, Ohio – Throughout the state, Issue 1 has been widely discussed with many in opposition including law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys. Issue One has been condemned locally in Meigs County by county officials as well. What is Issue One?

According to the State of Ohio Board of Elections, Issue 1 is a proposed Constitutional Amendment that was proposed through an initiate petition. It would be add a new Section 12 to Article XV of the Constitution of the State of Ohio. According to the Board of Election, if adopted the amendment would according to the language on the ballot:

  • Require sentence reductions of incarcerated individuals, except individuals incarcerated for murder, rape, or child molestation, by up to 25 percent if the individual participates in rehabilitative, work, or educational programming.
  • Mandate that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing, or using any such drugs as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and other controlled substances cannot be classified as a felony, but only a misdemeanor.
  • Prohibit jail time as a sentence for obtaining, possessing, or using such drugs until an individual’s third offense within 24 months.
  • Allow an individual convicted of obtaining, possessing, or using any such drug prior to the effective date of the amendment to ask a court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, regardless of whether the individual has completed the sentence.
  • Require any available funding, based on projected savings, to be applied to state-administered rehabilitation programs and crime victim funds.
  • Require a graduated series of responses, such as community service, drug treatment, or jail time, for minor, non-criminal probation violations.

Opposition to Issue 1
There is much opposition to Issue 1 and the arguements proposed include four main points: Issue 1 is dangerous; Issue One undermines treatment; Issue 1 reduces sentences for violent offenders; Issue 1 is an unfunded mandate, it shifts costs to local government.

Those opposing the issue have pointed out that treatment for addiction is not provided or required by the amendment, an addict is on his own in getting sober. The courts, especially drug courts currently connect addicts to treatment and help motivate success, according to opponents to Issue One. Opponents also state the following reasons for voting “NO” on Issue 1:

  • Possession or use of any amount of deadly drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and meth will result in probation – lighter punishment than offenses like disorderly conduct and reckless operation.
  • The message to children is that these drugs are not dangerous.
  • The message to drug traffickers is that doing business in Ohio is low risk.
  • Violent offenders cannot be sent to prison for probation violations. They will be free to disregard judges’ order with little consequence.
  • Many addicts forego treatment entirely without the threat of prison.
  • The proposal dooms effective treatment efforts in courts across Ohio.
  • Drug traffickers, human traffickers, aggravated robbers, and others will be eligible for up to a 25 percent sentence reduction.
  • Victims of violent crime will receive only partial justice.
  • Issue One places the rehabilitation and well-being of those who break the law ahead of the rehabilitation and well-being of innocent victims.
  • Proponents speculate that savings from letting violent offenders and drug offenders out of prison will result in millions of dollars for treatment.
  • It is not clear that the savings will be anything other than a one-time savings.
  • Speculation about saving is not the same as dedicated funding.
  • Local taxpayers will be left with the bill.

Those in opposition to Issue 1 include: Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood; Meigs County Prosecuting Attorney James Stanley; Gov. John Kasich; State Attorney General and Candidate for Governor, Mike DeWine; Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court Maureen O’Connor; Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer; Rep. Ryan Smith; Buckey State Sheriff’s Association; Citizens for Community Values; Ohio Domestic Violence Association, Ohio Chamber of Commerce; Ohio State Bar Association; Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and others.

Support for Issue 1
Issue 1 does have support. Supporters believe Issue 1 will reduce the number of people in state prison for low-level, nonviolent crimes and put money to better use by directing savings to drug treatment and crime victims.

Issue 1 supporters hold four main points for passing Issue 1 as an amendment to the Ohio Constitution: Issue 1 saves taxpayers dollars; Issue 1 puts public safety dollars to better use; Issue 1 reduces recidivism; Issue 1 protects public safety.

According to Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign which supports the issue, “Ohio spends more than $1.8 billion per year on a broken prison system where too many people who pose little public safety risk are incarcerated while treatment and prevent programs suffer. Issue One will save tens of millions of dollars annually in prison spending and direct the savings to addiction treatment and victims of crime.”

The group further believes Issue 1 will:

  • Expand earned-credit programs so that qualified people can be considered for release if they participate in rehabilitation programs, that requiring people to earn their way out of prison through rehabilitation reduces the likelihood they will commit more crimes.
  • It was written to ensure that people that are a danger to public safety remain incarcerated. No one convicted of murder, rape or child molestation will benefit from any aspect of the measure.
  • Wasting law enforcement resources and prison on people struggling with addiction makes no sense. Issue One requires misdemeanors instead of felonies for low-level drug possession offenses and requires community service, treatment or local jail, instead of state prison, for people convicted of these crimes or who break probation rules. Treatment and supervision work better to improve public safety than a revolving prison door.

Supporters of Issue 1 include: Candidate for Governor Richard Cordray; Candidate for Governor Travis Irvine; Former Governor Ted Strickland; Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neil; American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio; Cincinnati Nuns on the Bus; Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix; John Legend, entertainer; Van Jones, activist and CNN contributor; and others.

The polls in Ohio will be open on Nov. 6 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.