According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, State Sen Bill Seitz introduced Senate Bill 22 which would allow minor offenders to be sentenced to community programs and created sentencing alternatives to for parents convicted of failing to pay child support amongst other measures aimed at reduce the prison population.
Currently the state’s 32 prisons are operating at 132 percent of their designed capacity. The two state prisons in Warren County on Friday were holding inmates at 73 and 76 percent above their designed capacity, according the article.
Placing minor offenders in overcrowded prisons with other more violent offenders does nothing for the community. It costs money to maintain the prisons and prisoners, increasing population size means an associated increase in the money required to operate the prisons.
Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters feels Senate Bill 22 is entirely budget drive and does not take into consideration the safety of the community. The first part of his argument should come as no surprise, the economy is in full recession and tax revenues are falling off of the charts. However, I disagree with his second assumption. Community safety is already at risk with Queensgate closing and Hamilton County Sherrif’s Office laying off 155 employees and leaving another 65 positions unfilled.
Sentencing guidelines need to be adjusted to make room for the truly violent criminals to be incarcerated. Incarcerating a deadbeat parent with a hardened, violent offender only furthers the overcrowding problem and may lead the non-violent offender to turn to violence once they are released.
Mara Salvatrucha (MS) 13 was formed in the prisons of California and now has become one of the most notorious gangs in the United States. Exposing young convicts or non-violent offenders to prison has always struck me as counter-productive to having a safer community. The prison gangs will quickly recruit the young and defenseless into their gangs. Looking at different sentencing guidelines is one way of trying to reduce crime while also reducing demands on state and county budgets.