Impact of recent criminal justice reforms on well-being opportunity, addressed by issue experts
ARLINGTON, Va. — Stand Together Trust hosted a panel discussion in Columbus today to examine how recent changes and current challenges to Ohio’s criminal justice system are impacting lives, particularly those of non-violent offenders caught up in the system, their families and communities. The event, Bucking Trends? How Ohio Is Tackling Its Criminal Justice Challenges, featured national and state criminal justice experts who explored how meaningful criminal justice reform can improve opportunity and well-being throughout the Buckeye State.
“Getting it right on criminal justice reform doesn’t just mean that states such as Ohio will see their prison populations and incarceration budgets decline,” said Vikrant Reddy, a senior fellow on criminal justice and policing reform at Stand Together Trust. “Sound criminal justice policy gives former offenders the opportunity to rebuild their lives and become productive members of society rather than be more easily led into a life of crime. It can also mean greater personal and financial stability for the families of incarcerated individuals. Streets also become safer when former offenders are rehabilitated and find employment instead of repeating bad behavior.”
Like many states over the past several years, Ohio’s criminal justice system was in need of an overhaul. Its prisons were strained beyond capacity due to decades of stiff sentencing laws, while other laws made it harder for former prisoners to rejoin society. The results after decades of a “tough on crime” approach were stark:
- Ohio’s prison system was at 133 percent capacity with a growing class of ex-felons who were unable to gain access to employment, education and housing.
- In 2009, one in 25 adults in Ohio was in prison or jail, or on parole or probation. In 1982, the number was one in 116.
- The 2003 recidivism rate was 39.52 percent—the highest rate recorded in Ohio
However, leaders from both sides of the aisle came to together to pass reforms that have produced positive results. The prison population has slowed, violent crime is down and recidivism has hit its lowest point – 31.2 percent – since 1991. Ohio leaders are now looking at how to build on the momentum of these successful reforms and shared ideas of how to do so at Stand Together Trust’s forum.
“Today’s discussion highlighted how meaningful criminal justice reform can take root when people from both sides of the aisle come together for an informed discussion,” said Reddy. “Stand Together Trust was pleased to host this event and is optimistic that Ohio’s criminal justice system will continue to improve with the dedicated leadership it has seen on this issue.”
This forum is one of a series of nationwide events the Institute is holding to examine the impact of the criminal justice system on offenders, their families and communities and how reform can improve overall well-being and opportunity.
Opening Remarks: Sen. Bill Seitz, Ohio State Senate
Moderator: Vikrant Reddy, Senior Fellow, Stand Together Trust
- Robert Alt, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions
- Anne M. Connell-Freund, President, Ohio Justice Alliance for Community Corrections
- Dr. Ronnie A. Dunn, Associate Professor of Urban Studies, Cleveland State University
- Stephanie C. Hightower, President and CEO, Columbus Urban League
- Gary Mohr, Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
ABOUT STT: Stand Together Trust is a non-profit educational organization, with nearly 2,500 alumni of its programs, focused on the importance of free societies and how they increase well-being for the overwhelming majority of people. Through sound research, education and robust discussion, the Institute aims to advance understanding of what it means to flourish and how to enhance people’s ability to lead better lives.
Stand Together Trust