OCSEA President Chris Mabe recently weighed in on a Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction program that would put addicts and drug offenders into community-based facilities. The program is being piloted in eight counties and is expected to be rolled out state wide.
President Mabe explained to WOSU radio that OCSEA is not opposed to community treatment for some offenders. “The bigger issue is taking resources away from overcrowded and understaffed prisons to fund these program,” said Mabe. “Diverting money away from state prisons to community corrections could put our staff in serious danger,” he said. The prison system is about 400 Correction Officers short of what it had 10 years ago.
The union also has concerns over accountability when it comes to the Targeted Community Alternative to Prison program, as the pilot has only been in existence a few months. “We have some serious concerns about giving a blank check to private prison providers. Anytime you’re talking about “no strings attached” money being handed over to private companies, taxpayers should be skeptical,” said Mabe. “What does it mean in terms of transparency, for example? Will we have information about where these facilities are located in our communities? Or how taxpayer money is being spent on this effort? Is the facility even able to adequately monitor inmates to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods?” he asked.
Additionally, Senate Bill 66, a sentencing reform bill, is also raising some concerns for the union. If passed, the bill would remove the one-year minimum for fourth and fifth degree felonies and would allow offenders who violate community control sanctions to remain at a community-based facility.
“The last time the Ohio legislature passed sentencing reform, it did nothing to alleviate overcrowding or understaffing. So we’re going to maintain a healthy skepticism about this bill for now,” said Mabe.
Go here to see more from WOSU: As Prisons Reach Capacity, Ohio Offers Some Offenders An Alternative Path