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More Ohioans with addictions can get treatment, not prison, with passage of HB-1

More Ohioans with addictions can get treatment, not prison, with passage of HB-1

June 20, 2019

Legislators voted Wednesday to give more Ohioans access to treatment and opportunities for a fresh start.

By a vote of 90-6, the Ohio House overwhelmingly House Bill 1, a reform measure that will steer thousands of people into drug and alcohol treatment rather than jails and prisons. The bill will also prevent the added stain of a criminal conviction on a person’s record, and it expands eligibility for individuals with criminal convictions to have their records sealed.

“This is a game-changer for people struggling with addiction who need treatment, not prison time,” David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, said. “I urge leaders in the House and Senate to recognize that House Bill 1 will do a ton of good, and can be made even stronger by combining it with the Senate’s drug resentencing bill.”

The Senate is considering a different measure, Senate Bill 3, which reclassifies some felony drug offenses into misdemeanors. Enacted together, the bills have the potential to address major issues facing the state — overcrowding of jails and prisons and steering people into drug and alcohol treatment rather than incarceration as a way to deal with Ohio’s drug epidemic.

Both House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 3 are legislative responses to State Issue 1 in 2018, which put a spotlight on the state’s mass incarceration and addiction-to-prison pipeline.

“OJPC thinks these reforms can address issues on the front and back end of the criminal justice system,” Singleton said. “On the front end, keeping people out of prison who need treatment is much more cost effective for taxpayers, and it keeps families together. On the back end, the collateral sanctions people have to deal with after a criminal conviction affect every aspect of their lives. That’s why the record sealing aspect of HB-1 is so important. It’s going to give people the second chance they deserve.”

Individuals with criminal records are barred from hundreds of jobs under Ohio law. Another bill, 263 sponsored by Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield), seeks to address licensure barriers imposed by state licensing agencies on people with criminal convictions.