Ohio's high rate of license suspension and revocation, and the news in criminal justice this week

“…The practice of suspending licenses for failing to pay traffic tickets or to appear in court traps many low-income Ohioans in the criminal justice system.”

A new report reveals 5.62% of Ohio’s nearly 8 million licensed drivers have a suspended or revoked license, the second-highest rate in the country. In addition to punishing driving infractions, the state suspends licenses for people who are unable to provide proof of insurance, or who fail to pay court fees or child support. Previous reporting by the Cleveland Plain Dealer showed that neighborhood suspension rates were directly correlated with the percentage of residents making less than 200% of the poverty level. Other states with high rates of suspended or revoked licenses include Minnesota (4.88%) and Iowa (4.79%)

"Experts have warned Oklahoma policymakers for years of our criminal justice system’s impending disaster. We have made great progress, but we can’t rest now."

Joe Allbaugh, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, argued for continuing reforms to the state’s criminal justice system. While previous efforts have slowed the rate of growth, the prison population is still expected to grow by 2,367 by 2026. Allbaugh seeks to continue working with legislative leaders and the governor on additional reforms, and specifically cited the need for improved access to treatment for mental illness and addiction.

“This common-sense piece of legislation seeks to accomplish what we all want: safer communities.”

In the Houston Chronicle, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged legislators to follow Texas’ lead in criminal justice reform and pass the FIRST STEP Act.  And in Foreign Affairs, our own Holly Harris argues that prison reform legislation could be a political winner for both parties.

"They have experience, and that experience lessens the stigma of their criminal record."

In Pennsylvania’s Cambridge Springs women’s prison, incarcerated women make more than 15,000 pairs of eyeglasses per year, and can train to become certified opticians. Cambridge Springs is home to the only accredited prep course for optician certification in the commonwealth, and the program has a 200-person waiting list. Women in the program learn to use and repair every machine in the eyeglass-making process, perform prescription calculations in computers and by hand, and write a resume.

“…The widely heralded ‘era of reform’ seems never to have arrived in some jurisdictions, where growth has continued unchecked.”

Analysis from the Vera Institute showed that overall prison admissions have declined 24% since 2006, but the decline was concentrated in 10 states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina and Vermont), with California accounting for 37% of the total national decline. The report includes state-by-state analysis of incarceration, including pretrial jail population, sentenced jail population, and prison population and admissions.