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Two Different Views On Drug Treatment Issue On Ohio's Fall Ballot

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Republican Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor is concerned about a constitutional amendment on the fall ballot. 

Issue One requires low-level drug offenders to be charged with misdemeanors instead of felonies. Supporters say money could then go to treatment instead of overcrowded prisons. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports. 

O’Connor says she’s worried Issue 1 would take away drug court as an incentive judges can offer drug offenders, the only way she says the courts can ensure they get treatment. And it would allow for reduced sentences for inmates not convicted of murder, rape or child molestation – terms O’Connor says aren’t clearly defined.

“I think what’s been created here is some, via imprecise language and some unintended consequences, grave concerns for the implementation of this, should it pass, and a tremendous burden on the courts.”

O’Connor also says the amendment wouldn’t have any effect on the federal system, where there is no opportunity to divert offenders to drug court.  

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Meanwhile, backers of Issue One are are contradicting O'Connor's claims. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.

 

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Stephen JohnsonGrove, a criminal justice reform advocate, says Issue 1 would steer non-violent drug offenders away from prison and into treatment.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor argues that would dismantle drug courts which already exchange prison for treatment. But JohnsonGrove says there’s still a carrot and stick system.

 

JohnsonGrove: “What we takeaway is the sledgehammer which is prison but we still keep in the judges hand other kinds of tools such as probation. And probation, one should understand in Ohio, includes a whole menu of options including mandatory treatment.”

 

JohnsonGrove says the measure would reduce prison costs every year, directing that money into treatment options and drug courts.

 

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