Legislation would play integral role in reducing prison overpopulation, addressing opioid crisis
COLUMBUS – State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) yesterday provided sponsor testimony on House Bill (HB) 555 before the House Criminal Justice Committee. The bill, joint sponsored with Representative Thomas West (D-Canton), allows for an offender to apply to the court for a reduction in their penalty, if the penalty for that crime is later reduced by legislation. The offender must meet certain criteria for eligibility; any non-violent offense will qualify.
“In our society the punishment must match the crime. House Bill 555 provides a process for updating the punishment to the crime,” said Sykes. “If the statute of the offense changes, the penalty must also change. The year, month, or even in some cases, the day a person is sentenced should not have them sitting behind bars longer than what the law requires.”
Sykes also noted that HB 555 will assist lawmakers who look to address Ohio’s prison overpopulation, the opiate crisis and mental health treatment in the near future. According to the Council of State Governments’ analysis of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, nonviolent, drug and property offenses constitute nearly 60 percent of all felony sentences.
“It is disappointing to see the legislature’s lack of action on criminal justice reform. Now that Issue 1, a citizen prompted ballot initiative, failed to pass, the 700,000 Ohioans who signed the petition and those who voted against Issue 1, look to us, the General Assembly, to enact criminal justice reform,” said Sykes. “With a bipartisan team of local leaders and our leaders here in the Statehouse vowing to implement sentencing reform, we will need a remedy for currently incarcerated offenders to take part in the proposed changes.”
If passed, HB 555 would make Ohio one of the first states to allow offenders to apply for a sentence reduction every time the criminal penalty for a non-violent offense is modified.