Public Safety in Ohio

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After declining from 1998 to 2004, the Ohio prison population began to rise in 2004. The number of inmates increased 16 percent, from 44,270 in 2005 to an all-time high of 51,273 in 2008.  This growth drove significant increases in corrections spending. State prisons were operating at 33 percent over capacity and were projected to grow by 3000 by 2015, which would have required an estimated $500 million in additional cumulative spending if existing policies had remained in place.

In 2008, Ohio policymakers requested technical assistance from the Council of State Governments' Justice Center—a partner with Pew's Public Safety Performance Project—to help develop a statewide policy framework to reduce spending on corrections and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety. To guide the Justice Center's analyses of the state's criminal justice system and development of policy options, the state established a bipartisan, inter-branch work group. With input from Pew and the Justice Center, the work group developed a data-driven legislative package to address Ohio's prison population, generate savings and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety.

On June 29, 2011, Governor John Kasich signed the Justice Reinvestment Act into law. It is estimated that the new law will enable the state to avert the prison population growth projected through 2015, and help the state avoid an estimated half-billion dollars in spending. The reforms will also ease prison crowding as the population gradually declines to levels last seen in 2007, generating $46 million in savings by 2015. Through the adoption of a common set of risk assessment instruments across the state's criminal justice system, community supervision and treatment resources will be consistently targeted toward offenders who need them the most. The state will reinvest $20 million over four years to improve felony probation supervision by providing incentive funding for agencies that reduce recidivism.