ACLU report: Ohio lawmakers still propose too many crime bills

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Nearly one of every 10 bills introduced by Ohio lawmakers during the last two-year legislative session were criminal-justice related and at odds with efforts to reduce the state’s prison population, according to a report released Wednesday.

The analysis found that 9.4% of all introduced bills either created new crimes, enhanced existing sentences, or expanded current criminal laws, based on findings in the “Statehouse to Prison Pipeline” report from the American Civil Liberties Union Ohio chapter.

Despite the ongoing trend, the total number of criminal justice bills was lower than in the two previous General Assembly sessions, the report said. The bill introductions come at a time when Ohio prisons remain above capacity, even with lower populations driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We cannot arrest, convict, and incarcerate our way out of this crisis,” said ACLU-Ohio lobbyist Gary Daniels, noting that mass incarceration especially hurts communities of color.

Overall, the study found that 7.4% of 805 bills introduced in the House and 13.3% of Senate introduced bills could add to the prison population. Only nine bills were ultimately passed, including legislation that adds penalties for promoting prostitution and legislation making it illegal to provide abortion-inducing drugs unless a doctor is present.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press