Breaking down Issue 1

MARTINS FERRY — Issue 1 is not just a penal code change for Ohio; instead it is a proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on Ohio’s ballot on Nov. 6.

Issue 1, titled “The Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment,” was designed to reduce the number of people in state prisons for low-level, nonviolent crimes, such as drug possession and non-criminal probation violations, according to the Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign. If passed the initiative would make the possession, obtainment and use of illegal substances to no more than a misdemeanor. Sentences for those crimes could not exceed probation for a first or second offense.

Issue 1 would not change the classification of first-, second- or third-degree drug-related felonies, such as the sale, distribution or trafficking of drugs. The initiative also would allow individuals already serving sentences for convictions higher than a misdemeanor for possession, obtainment and use of drugs to request the court for re-sentencing.

Courts would be prohibited from ordering individuals on probation for felonies to be sent to prison for non-criminal probation violations. The ballot initiative would require the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to grant an inmate with sentence credits of 0.5 days for each day that the person participated in rehabilitative, work or education programs.

Some individuals and organizations in open support of the passing of Issue 1 are: Democratic candidate for governor Richard Cordray; Democratic candidate for Ohio Treasurer Rob Richardson; state Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati; Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy; George Soros; the American Civil Liberties; and musician John Legend.

“We need to be tough on crime, but we also need to be smart in how we use our limited resources to combat the opioid epidemic that is ravaging our state,” Democratic candidate for governor Richard Cordray said. “Law enforcement leaders around Ohio tell me that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem, and I agree. We should be getting addicts the treatment they need, not giving them jail sentences at a huge cost to taxpayers.”

Some individuals and organizations that oppose Issue 1 are: The Ohio Republican Party; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; Attorney General Mike DeWine; Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner; former U.S. attorney Steven Dettelbach; Republican candidate for state auditor Keith Faber; former secretary of state Ken Blackwell; Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association; Association of Municipal and County Court Judges of Ohio; Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police; Ohio State Bar Association; Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association; and CorJus.

“Under State Issue 1, a drug dealer carrying enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people would avoid jail time and be sent back onto the streets with just a misdemeanor charge, free to peddle their poison again,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “This issue is dangerous and reckless and will put all Ohioans at risk while making it tougher for law enforcement and courts to get drug dealers off our streets.”


The Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign filed the following argument in support of Issue 1 with the Ohio Ballot Board:

∫ Vote yes on Issue 1 to reduce the number of people in state prison for low-level, nonviolent crimes and put the money to better use by directing savings to drug treatment and crime victims.

∫ Yes on Issue 1 saves taxpayer dollars: Ohio spends more than $1.8 billion per year on a broken prison system where too many people who pose little public safety risk are incarcerated while treatment and prevention programs suffer. Issue 1 will save tens of millions of dollars annually in prison spending and direct the savings to addiction treatment and victims of crime.

∫ Yes on Issue 1 puts our public safety dollars to better use: Wasting law enforcement resources and prison on people struggling with addiction makes no sense. Issue 1 requires misdemeanors instead of felonies for low-level drug possession offenses and requires community service, treatment or local jail, instead of state prison, for people convicted of these crimes or who break probation rules (such as missing a meeting). Treatment and supervision work better to improve public safety than a revolving prison door.

∫ Yes on Issue 1 reduces recidivism: Issue 1 expands earned-credit programs so that qualified people can be considered for release if they participate in rehabilitation programs. Experts agree that requiring people to earn their way out of prison through rehabilitation reduces the likelihood they’ll commit more crimes.

∫ Yes on Issue 1 protects public safety: This was carefully written to ensure that people that are a danger to public safety remain incarcerated. No one convicted of murder, rape or child molestation will benefit from any aspect of this measure. Issue 1 has bipartisan support from law enforcement, mental health and addiction treatment providers, nurses, faith leaders, and victims of crime.

Save money. Improve public safety.

Executive Director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association Louis Tobin and Executive Director of the Ohio Judicial Conference Paul Pfeifer, filed the following argument against Issue 1 with the Ohio Ballot Board:

Issue 1 is dangerous.

∫ Possession or use of any amount of deadly drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and meth will result in probation – lighter punishment than offenses like disorderly conduct and reckless operation.

∫ The message to children is that these drugs are not dangerous.

∫ The message to drug traffickers is that doing business in Ohio is low risk.

∫ Violent offenders cannot be sent to prison for probation violations. They will be free to disregard judges’ orders with little consequence.

∫ Issue 1 undermines treatment.

Treatment for addiction is not provided or required by this amendment. An addict is on his own in getting sober. Courts connect addicts to treatment and help motivate success. Many addicts forego treatment entirely without the threat of prison. The proposal dooms effective treatment efforts in courts across Ohio.

∫ Issue 1 reduces sentences for violent offenders.

Drug traffickers, human traffickers, aggravated robbers, and others will be eligible for up to a 25% sentence reduction. Victims of violent crime will receive only partial justice. Issue 1 places the rehabilitation and well-being of those who break the law ahead of the rehabilitation and well-being of innocent victims.

∫ Issue 1 is an unfunded mandate. It shifts costs to local government.

∫ Proponents speculate that savings from letting violent offenders and drug offenders out of prison will result in millions of dollars for treatment.

It is not clear that the savings will be anything other than a one time savings. Speculation about savings is not the same as dedicated funding. Local taxpayers will be left with the bill.

Keep Ohio courts and treatment efforts effective. Keep violent offenders off our streets. Vote “NO” on Issue 1.