Wednesday evening, the Coalition for Public Safety (CPS), The Buckeye Institute, and the Ohio Justice & Policy Center (OJPC) joined together to host a lively conversation with policymakers and leading law enforcement practitioners on the “law and order” approach to sensible justice and public safety. The panelists addressed shifting the narrative from “tough on crime” to smart on justice; tried and true reform solutions; and how investing in communities, recognizing human dignity, and extending second chances can both save tax dollars and help create a stronger, safer Ohio. 


Ohio State Senator John Eklund commented: “Justice reform unites. You can be a fiscal conservative or a social justice activist and support it. But justice reform is greater than fiscal considerations or even big issues like the opioid crisis. It’s about recognizing the humanity of all individuals, even those who make foolish or even criminal decisions. My life has been personally affected by the foolish and criminal decisions of others. This experience has shown me at the cost of much personal pain that even these people may deserve a second chance. I’m grateful for partnerships like those with Sen.Tavares and Sen. Williams; for the work of organizations like The Buckeye Institute, Coalition for Public Safety, and Ohio Justice & Policy Center; and I’m grateful for the backbone of those who are willing to stand up for what they believe to be right.”


Ohio State Senator Charleta Tavares commented: “I would like to thank the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, the Coalition for Public Safety, and The Buckeye Institute for providing an opportunity to have an open dialogue to discuss criminal justice reform” said Senator Tavares. “Ohio’s prison system is overcrowded and overburdened, and the General Assembly needs to look at ways to lower our prison population while still maintaining public safety. Incarceration breaks up families and destroys communities, that is why Senate Bill 66 introduced by Senator Eklund and me is so important. By looking at alternatives to prison we are giving people who have made a mistake the opportunity to get their lives back on track. Being tough on crime is no longer a viable solution; we must be smart on crime with rehabilitation and appropriate punishment so that we allowing people to start again. We want them to become valuable and contributing citizens in the state of Ohio.”


Former Cincinnati Police Captain Howard Rahtz commented: “I was very excited to participate in the program today. We are at a delicate time in our communities when relations between police and the people they are serving are torn by mistrust and fear. I believe a style of policing emphasizing community engagement and problem-solving will not only begin to close the trust gap but will also effectively reduce crime and disorder.”


Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Carter Stewart commented: “We all know that our prison population has exploded by more than 500% since the 1970s, putting the U.S. at the top of the list for incarceration rates in the world. That doesn’t touch the number of people under law enforcement control through probation or parole. From the perspective of a former law enforcement official, I want to keep our communities safe, but I also want our criminal justice system to be fair and just. Today, it’s easy to perceive folks going into the system as “other” than ourselves, which facilitates our current system of mass criminalization. Until we see the humanity in everyone, we won’t make a lasting difference. Certainly, there are individuals who must be incarcerated, but prosecutors should have discretion to seek alternatives to incarceration as well, depending on a particular defendant’s circumstances.  If we are limited to charging people on their most serious, readily-provable crime, we lose the ability to give a second chance to those who deserve it.  A one size fits all system doesn’t work because it’s unjust and leaves no room for redemption.” 


Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck commented: “I have been a judge for 32 years, and I got tired of signing termination of supervision orders because someone had died from an overdose. Since my county has become a pilot for the TCAP program in October of 2016, I have not sent one F-5 offender to prison and I know we have changed people’s lives, and most importantly, people are getting the treatment they need and couldn’t get in prison.”


Steven Hawkins, president of the Coalition for Public Safety, commented: “The need for a sensible new approach to justice is clear: as many of Ohio’s diverse communities grapple with addiction, state prisons are nearing capacity. The Coalition for Public Safety is proud to work with leading advocates from the front lines of law enforcement and legislators from both sides of the aisle to craft solutions that prioritize public safety, extend grace and healing, and invest in community based alternatives to incarceration. Last year, 67 percent of Ohio voters indicated that they were in favor of reforming the justice system. We hope that 2017 will be a year for meaningful, comprehensive change.” 


Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute, commented: “Ohio spends $1.7 billion annually on prisons and is one of only seven states to impose prison terms of less than one year. That’s not sensible justice. But through innovative programs that rehabilitate low-level offenders locally, Ohio can save money, preserve public safety, and better address the scourge of addiction that is afflicting our state.”


David Singleton, executive director and attorney of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, commented: “The Ohio Justice & Policy Center (OJPC) has been working for sensible, safety-driven, humane justice for 20 years. We’re energized to be joining with the Coalition for Public Safety and the Buckeye Institute to bring together this bipartisan and multi-disciplinary conversation. We’re looking forward to thinking deeply together about what it takes to make communities safer and more whole.”


Join us.