Greetings!! We are so glad that you came to our page. We are a new grassroots group, composed of families of the incarcerated, the prisoners themselves, and anyone who cares about "justice and fairness" being the cornerstone of criminal sentencing objectives in Ohio.
We are a voice too little heard amid the roar of the "tough-on-crime" legislators who purport to represent the interests of taxpaying voters in Ohio. We pay taxes too, and we are weary of our loved ones being decried as sponges living in luxury at tax-payer expense. We are tired of the lies and tell-nothing statistics that misrepresent our loved ones.
We are the unwilling participants in the massive attempt by these legislators to deceive you into believing that Senate Bill Two, the mammoth sentencing restructuring plan that went into effect one year ago today, is actually tougher on criminals than the sentencing structure that it supplanted.
Inmates sentenced prior to July 1, 1996 were punished under a indeterminate sentencing scheme that allowed a felon to receive sentences of from a few months to a few years, or from a few years to many years, depending on a number of indeterminate factors, including the severity of the crime and its impact on the community. For example, a man convicted of a petty burgalary given 4-25 years, was expected by the sentencing court to serve the minimum 4 years, and if the parole board determined to keep him longer, he could be kept in custody for the full 25 years, or any lesser time after the minimum 4 years. His sentence, could be "served" in 4 years if he was a model inmate, and if he showed a subjective improvement in his attitude and conduct, he could be released on parole for a period of one year to five years, again depending on the severity of the crime and other factors. After successfully completing parole, he was released from parole, and could resume the civic responsibilities that he had lost when he was incarcerated. Judges knew full well that most men sentenced to a 4-25, would do the 4, and possibly a few years more, but rarely ever would one do 10 or more years. Because of this in-built flexibility in sentencing, a judge would hand out a sentence for a crime expecting that close to one-half of it would be completed by the felon, either through actual incarceration, or through incarceration and parole. A prisoner, until his first parole hearing, could earn time off his sentence for "good-time" conduct points. SB 2 changed all that in many ways.
For starters, SB 2 eliminated indeterminate sentencing in favor of "flat time," or, as the legislators prefer to say, "truth-in-sentencing." Senate Bill Two reclassified some felonies from felonies of the first degree, the most severe penalty to be paid, to felonies of lesser offense, second and third degree. These lesser offense felonies have precise timetables that must be observed by the state before a felon can be released. Most of the sentences, now mandatory for most felonies, are 10 years and less. Most often, the severest crime, committed under aggravating circumstances, will earn a felon over 10 years. In addition, this mandatory sentence can be alleviated by "earned time" behavior, although "good time" has been eliminated. In handing out a sentence now to a petty burglar, the judge can give him what a second and third degree felony sentence requires by legislative design. Thus, the need for the parole board, and its associated subjective paroling practices, is eliminated. The problem of monitoring a felon released with "earned time" considerations is solved by conditional release, in which a violation of certain predetermined release factors will return the felon to prison to serve his sentence to its actual completion. This "truth-in-sentencing" scheme applies only to felons entering the penal system after July 1, 1996. And therein, lies the rub.
Our beloved felons are incarcerated with other felons who have far less time to serve, sometimes for more serious offenses. This strikes us as being wholly unfair, because the Ohio legislature can write statutes making the changes retrospective. Or the legislature can write new laws allowing pre-SB 2 inmates to file for resentencing in the sentencing courts, or it can write and amend legislation to mandate that the parole board consult the new sentencing guidelines and determine parole appropriateness based on the revised sentencing recommendations. But, so far, the legislature, despite pressure from such active and vocal groups as CURE-Ohio, the American Friends Service Committee, Oberlin Action Against Prisons, and the Ohio Penal Oversite Committee, has failed to act. This two tier sentencing leads to the prolonged and punitive incarceration of men and women who may have "learned their lessons" and are now willing and able to return to society as tax-payers. Many of you out there, in this situation, know that what is written here is true. And that is why we are urging you to act.
This report is available for all families of inmates and other tax-paying Ohioans to read free of charge from the Office of the CIIC. The online version is now available on this site -- CIIC Position Paper. Recommendations contained within it reveal that the inmates suffering under pre-SB 2 sentencing feel keenly the gross unfairness of the new sentencing scheme and they are becoming restive. Get a copy of this report and urge your representative and senator to read it, and to use it in reining in the OAPA's power. The inmates entering the system now, given 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,and 10 year sentences are by and large that percentage of the population that the Ohio Adult Parole Authority know from its studies will re-offend within three years -- the 18-24 year-olds who commit most of the crime today. Meanwhile, older, better-educated, well-trained, job-skilled inmates in their 30s and 40s and 50s are being kept locked in a system that will not reward them for their efforts to improve themselves because rehabilitation is no longer in style. These are our loved ones -- fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters -- who want to stop living off the tax-payer and to start paying taxes.