The Ohio House has overwhelmingly passed a bill giving courts options to divert those charged with drug crimes away from prison and into treatment programs. It now goes on to the Senate, which also has a drug crimes sentencing reform measure of its own.
The bill, labeled as House Bill 1 to indicate its priority, would expand access to programs for non-violent drug offenders for treatment instead of conviction or prison, and to allow for sealing of some criminal records to help them get jobs.
Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) supported last year’s failed ballot issue on drug sentencing and this bill as well.
“House Bill 1 gives these Ohioans a second chance to start over and have a real shot at reaching their fullest potential," Howse said in the discussion of the bill on the House floor.
Cautious supporters say they’re hoping lawmakers will also pass the Senate’s priority bill that would also overhaul drug sentencing laws.
The Ohio Public Defender’s office says about 2,600 people are in prison for drug possession, and 1,600 are locked up for possessing drugs in amounts for personal use only.