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Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission Update

By John Perotti

There have been a lot of rumors of abolishing the parole board in Ohio. Here are the facts in relation to this rumor. In 1990 former Governor D. Celeste created the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission to study Ohio's sentencing scheme and to issue recommendations for changes to the general assembly. It will be their job to transform the recommendations into statutory law.

Members of the commission include five judges, two senators, one state representative, head of Ohio's Public Defender Commission, a prosecutor, and a sheriff. The Bar Association has a delegate and their is an advisory council consisting of representatives from the Ohio Halfway House Association, Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, Case Western College of Law, Ohio Chief Probation Officers, County Commission Association and Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

The commission is in consensus that violent and career criminals should be incarcerated in prisons, while third and fourth degree non-violent offenders be placed in local facilities. Also that post release (parole) conditions and services [be] imposed on all offenders released from serving their minimum sentence.

A consensus was also reached that the sentence meted would consist of a basic minimum sentence, determined by the judge who considers the offense and history of the offender. This minimum sentence would be what is served in prison (flat time) subject to "bad time" (rather than good time) which would extend the minimum sentence for misbehavior in prison. The parole board would be limited to determining the imposition of bad time and the manner and length of post-release supervision upon serving the minimum sentence.

A consensus was also reached that the caps on consecutive sentences be removed under a system that allows reviews of consecutive sentences at a future date, with the initial sentencing decision subject to appellate review. Also, the mandatory ranges of sentence enhancements for repeat aggravated felonies should be eliminated, leaving one range of penalty for each level of offense, with presumption that repeat offenders go to prison (i.e., 3,4,5,6,7, to 15 years).

Reviews of sentences by the sentencing judge at a future time, to take into consideration changes in circumstances demonstrated by the prisoner's behavior for possible release will also be instituted. This would help counter the removal of caps and allow a judge to release a prisoner deemed "rehabilitated" yet serving a lengthy sentence.

All in all, due to the present state of overcrowding and actual incarceration sentences which don't provide for the turnover of prisoners it appears Ohio will be returning to the same sentencing scheme that was in effect prior to the sentencing changes in 1989. However there will be a flat minimum sentence that gives a presumption of release unless bad time is added on. The parole board will be limited to this function and supervising post release conditions.

The commission will issue its final recommendations in June 1993. Input regarding the commission can be sent to:

David Diroll, Executive Directory
Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission
400 East Tower Street, Suite 120
Columbus, Ohio 43215

phone number :(614) 466-1833

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