COLUMBUS—Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) this week discussed Ohio’s efforts on criminal justice reforms at the 14th Annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenhiem Symposium on Crime in America. He was joined by national experts on criminal justice reforms.
Among other topics, Obhof discussed the First Step Act, significant federal criminal justice reforms passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump late last year. Obhof argued that the First Step Act could spur more states into passing sentencing reforms of their own.
President Obhof also discussed Senate Bill 3
, priority legislation for the Ohio Senate that he described as the “Next Step Act.” The bipartisan legislation would reform drug sentencing in Ohio.
Ohio, along with the rest of the country, continues to fight the scourge of drug addiction, particularly from opioid abuse. In the last General Assembly, the Senate passed legislation increasing penalties for trafficking fentanyl and carfentanil (which are responsible for a significant number of overdose deaths across the state). However, in recent years the Senate has also passed bipartisan sentencing reforms, including an expansion of intervention in lieu of conviction and a presumption against prison time for many low-level, non-violent offenders.
Now, working across party lines, Senate Bill 3 would build on those distinctions by decreasing penalties for low-level possession offenses and moving more offenders into drug treatment.
“This is about being smart on crime,” said Obhof, who pointed out that Ohio’s recidivism rate is well below the national average. “It’s about following policies that make more sense, and lead to not just to a second chance for offenders, but to safer communities as well.”
Senate Bill 3 builds off of the work of the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Commission, which made sweeping recommendations on sentencing reform.
The bill was assigned to the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and recently had its first hearing.