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Study Finds Drug Sentencing Bill Would Keep Thousands Of Ohioans Healthier

This Jan. 8, 2001. file photo shows the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) in Youngstown, Ohio, the state's highest security prison.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press

Two bills under consideration in the Ohio legislature would change sentencing for low-level drug crimes to intervention rather than incarceration.

A new studyfrom a liberal-leaning think tank shows passing those bills would improve the health of many Ohioans – especially considering the pandemic.

Policy Matters Ohio’s Piet van Lier says strict drug sentencing has created overcrowding in prisons.

“It really makes prisons and jails petri dishes for transmission of disease," van Lier says.

Van Lier notes 86 inmates and five prison staffers have died from COVID-19 in Ohio. He says Black Ohioans represent 13% of Ohio’s total population yet make up 47% of inmates in prison.

The group hopes lawmakers will use this information to pass one of the plans soon. Both are in a Senate committee – one since last fall, the other for well over a year.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.