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Ohio public defender is supporting a sweeping criminal justice bill

Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, Lucasville
Dan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, Lucasville

The Office of the Ohio Public Defender says they're especially interested in how the bill can help people get back on their feet after a conviction.

The Ohio Senate is debating a large piece of legislation which is nearly 2,000 pages and stuffed with changes to the criminal justice system.

The bill increases early release programs, changes the rules on denying release to "transitional control," and expands the ability to expunge records.

Among the supporters of SB288 is the public defender's office.

Niki Clum, legislative policy manager with the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, says expunging records can go a long way in helping people find a job and make a living.

"So this conviction -- that they have now shown they have been rehabilitated from, they have turned their life around -- that can no longer hold them back," says Clum.

Clum says the bill stops short of being transformational, criminal justice reform. However, the public defender's office supports the legislation, saying it takes many steps in the right direction.

The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association is against the legislation. Prosecutors say there are many provisions in the bill that have a negative impact on public safety and victims of crime.

For example, the group notes their opposition to the changes in transitional control release. The bill would remove the ability for a judge to deny early release to places such as halfway homes and community residential centers. The decision would be left to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

"Unelected employees of the executive branch should not be given the authority to override the decisions of the sentencing court," Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, writes in testimony to a Senate committee.

The bill is being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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