Something shocking just happened in Ohio.
Prosecutors there said they want to reduce sentences for criminals — not hardened murderers, just non-violent and low-level drug offenders.
Prosecutors — not prison reform advocates or defense attorneys — said they want to eliminate mandatory prison sentences for trafficking and possession of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, except in the most serious cases. They also want to reduce several other non-drug crimes to misdemeanors from felonies, including assaulting a school teacher without physical harm; injuring a police dog or horse; illegal use of food stamps; and stealing cable television
The biggest change, however, would be to give judges more flexibility in sending second-time offenders to drug treatment programs instead of jail.
It says a lot when prosecutors request less time for criminals, and Ohio isn’t the only state where this is happening.
In California, home to the largest prison system in the country, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger , a Republican, plans to cut his prison costs by reducing the number of people on parole. (Most of the people entering California prisons go, not for committing new crimes, but for violating technicalities of their parole. The Governater basically wants to release certain ex-cons without the benefit of state supervision).
California’s prison system is so overcrowded that the courts recently ruled that the state has to release 57,000 prisoners. And conditions so poor that a judge recently found Schwarzenegger in contempt of court for defying his order to pay the first $250 million of a multibillion-dollar plan to rebuild the state prison health care system.
Last year Schwarzenegger wanted $6.7 billion to build new prisons. Pending double-digit budget deficits probably was enough to change his mind.
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire , D, is proposing the release of low-risk female inmates whose children are in foster care. The move is expected to help close a $9 billion budget shortfall.
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