Our local Coffee Party wanted to pick an issue that we can find common ground with many different groups that may not agree with us on every issue. (We aren’t sure if we agree with each other on every issue. This is a problem that ruining lives-particularly minorities and non-violent drug offenders that would be better off with treatment-and it is busting budgets at every level of government.
To those Americans that consider themselves fiscal conservatives and fiscally responsible we think that this is an area where many Americans can agree that government has gotten bloated and oppressive. We believe that instead of being tough on crime we need to be smart on crime. One way to do this is with restorative justice and treatment for non-violent criminals.
Another important issue that needs to be addressed is the disproportionate number of minorities that are being locked up for non-violent drug offenses even though studies show that blacks use drugs at about the same rate as whites. Cincinnati’s own anti-marijuana ordinance is a local example of this. Click here to learn more about it.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that the ACLU and state Sen. Nina Turner a Cleveland Democrat and Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican are at odds on many issues but the agree that Ohio prisons are in crisis because of overcrowding.
Here’s an excerpt:
The report summarized the findings of other reports over nearly two decades and reached the same conclusions: Ohio sends far too many people to prison, spends an inordinate amount of money on adult and youth prisons, and has done little to reduce crime and recidivism.
It costs taxpayers $66.31 per day to house each adult offender and $330.33 per day for each juvenile offender. Community sanctions, treatment and probation cost a fraction of those amounts.
Seitz said the state's 1996 "truth-in-sentencing" law failed miserably, largely because lawmakers added dozens of tough-on-crime sentence "enhancements" that increased the overall average time served instead of reducing it as intended.
"We created layer after layer of additional sentences," he said.
Seitz is the sponsor of Senate Bill 22, which would funnel some low-level, nonviolent offenders to community treatment programs and give offenders time off their sentences for successfully participating in education and treatment programs behind bars. It would initially save about $13.7 million in operating costs, but it would help avoid billions in spending if it prevents the state from having to build new prisons because of severe overcrowding, he said.
The US has 2.2 million people in prison, more than any nation in the world. Nearly half are non-violent drug offenders.
We believe these common sense reforms can bring people from across the political spectrum together to create more humane policies that ease the strain on our city, county, state and federal budgets. We believe these policies are socially just and fiscally responsible. They will help us reduce the cost and size of government and bring more liberty and justice for all.