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Total Correctional Population: 326,200

Number on Parole or Probation: 256,400

Number in Local Jail or Prison: 71,000

Incarceration Rate per 100,000 residents: 610

Incarceration Rate Rank: 24th

Corrections Share of 2018 General Fund Expenditures: 6.1%


“Correctional Populations in the United States, 2016,” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

"2018 State Expenditure Report," National Association of State Budget Officers 

recently enacted reforms


Senate Bill 66: Expands access to record sealing, expands eligibility for critically-needed drug and alcohol treatment programs, promotes rehabilitation as an alternative to prison, allows for alternative sanctions for violating terms of parole, and modifies the way in which a court calculates jail time credit.

Senate Bill 4: Allows expungement for most offense committed under the duress of human trafficking.


House Bill 347: Revises the civil forfeiture process, changes seizure procedures, shifts the burden of proof and revising evidence requirements for criminal forfeiture, restricts the transfer of forfeited property to a federal agency.


House Bill 56: Prohibits public employers from including questions about criminal history on initial job application forms.



July 26, 2019

“Now is the time to double down on the strategies that are working.”

According to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of overdose deaths fell 4.2% in 2018, to an estimated 68,500 nationwide. Deaths related to opioids declined slightly, from 49,000 to 47,600, while those related to cocaine and psychostimulants increased from 25,800 to 28,700. Some of the steepest declines in overdose deaths came in Ohio, which saw a 22.1% decrease, and Pennsylvania, where 18.8% fewer deaths were reported. Eighteen states, including Arizona, Oregon, Tennessee and Louisiana, saw increases in fatal overdoses from 2017 to 2018.

July 19, 2019

“What we do is find athletes who are passionate about justice reform issues and work with them to help amplify their voices.”

The Justice Action Network partnered with University of Kentucky standout and Pittsburgh Steelers’ Rookie Benny Snell, Jr. to host system-impacted children at a football camp in Westerville, Ohio this week. Nearly 200 kids, aged 6-16, participated in the camp, which was held at Snell’s alma mater, Westerville Central High School. The Justice Action Network worked with groups, including the Boys and Girls Club, to identify kids whose families had been involved in the criminal justice system.

June 14, 2019

“Our broken system failed Alex, and countless other Ohioans, but we can start to make it right with Senate Bill 3.”

In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio State Senators John Eklund (R-Munson) and Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) urged their fellow legislators to support Senate Bill 3, which would make some simple drug possession charges a misdemeanor, rather than a felony. The “Next Step Act” follows the federal First Step in embracing “bipartisan, commonsense, data-driven reforms.” Eklund and O’Brien cited polling from the Justice Action Network showing 87% of Ohio voters supported sentencing reforms for low-level nonviolent offenders.

June 7, 2019

“…Many of the broader challenges that probation departments face can be traced to the way that they are funded—usually based upon the number of people being supervised at any given time.”
In The Hill, Right on Crime’s Michael Haugen reviewed a report finding that performance-based funding has contributed to reduced caseloads, lower costs, and fewer probation revocations. Successful models include Ohio’s “Reclaim” Program, which incentivizes community-based programming for juvenile offenders and at-risk youth, and Illinois’ “Redeploy” Program, which provides financial incentives to jurisdictions that expand evidence-based interventions focused on addressing underlying drivers of crime. 

May 17, 2019

“Being a drug addict should not be a crime in the State of Ohio. Period.”

The Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony this week on Senate Bill 3, which would reduce penalties for some low-level, non-violent offenses, particularly drug possession offenses. The bill’s sponsors, Senators John Eklund (R-Munson Township) and Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta), said current Ohio law too often “mandates ever-increasing prison terms for people who need treatment much more than they need punishment.” New polling from Public Opinion Strategies and the Justice Action Network showed that Ohio voters overwhelmingly support sentencing reform and second-chance policies.

May 17, 2019

“By utilizing MAT and improving access to this lifesaving treatment, communities and correctional agents can reduce the risk of overdose and death post-release.”

An estimated 58% of state prisoners and 63% of sentenced jail inmates have substance abuse disorders, and states are using more data-driven approaches to addressing their needs during incarceration and in the reentry period. Kentucky increased funding for naltrexone and substance abuse disorder programs in 2015 that provided structured environments, mentorship offerings and a sense of community. Pennsylvania’s Nonnarcotic Medication Assisted Substance Abuse Treatment Grant Pilot Program funded prison-based social workers and provided naltrexone to inmates upon release. And in Ohio, State Targeted Response funds were used to expand the number of doctors with buprenorphine waivers. 

April 12, 2019

“It should be more open. It shouldn’t be so closed that we don’t know what their decisions are based on.”

The Ohio Parole Board is under scrutiny from a wide array of critics, including crime victims, incarcerated people, lawyers and lawmakers. Much of the criticism focuses on a lack of transparency: hearings are not open to the public, records are kept secret, and board debate and votes are conducted behind closed doors. Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Annette Chambers-Smith expressed confidence in the current board, but said she planned to appoint four new members with more diverse backgrounds, ask outside experts to recommend reforms, and look for ways they can be more transparent.

January 11, 2019

“It was in this context that Dayton waded in: innovating, trying, failing, and trying again. And while nobody will tell you that the problem is solved, our community has made enormous strides.”

One of the cities hardest hit by the opioid crisis, Dayton, Ohio has become a model for its creative, collaborative, and compassionate response.Since 2011, Dayton’s Montgomery County has had one of the highest rates of overdose fatalities in the state; but fatalities were down 65% in 2018 as compared to the same time period in 2017. A report from the Center for American Progress analyzed key elements of the city’s response, including rapid and targeted data collection and use, increased access to treatment, and a law enforcement strategy focused on support and prevention rather than criminalization.

September 14, 2018

“That’s where a text-messaging service helps. Defendants may not read a letter…but they will look at their cell phones.”

Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office has been using a text messaging service to remind some clients of upcoming court dates, and hopes to expand the program to include juvenile and municipal court defendants soon. Many defendants do not have stable addresses, or miss mailed notifications, but are more likely to see a notice on their cell phones. A similar program, run by Uptrust, is in use in counties in California, Maryland, Virginia, Washington and Pennsylvania. Uptrust’s CEO says failure-to-appear rates have gone from 15-20 percent to 5-6 percent in their service areas.

August 24, 2018

“That practice also has reduced crowding in the Summit County Jail, and saved taxpayers millions of dollars a year in jail costs.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Justice for All series continued with an step-by-step review of Summit County, Ohio’s pretrial services. Spurred by overcrowding and rising costs, the county adopted a pretrial risk assessment system in 2006. Officials estimate savings of more than $7.3 million in 2016 alone. Akron Municipal Court judge said the pretrial services program was essential: “I’ve never had to do my job without the risk assessment and I don’t think that I would want to.”

August 3, 2018

“These challenges may appear overwhelming, but many states are using innovative approaches to tackle them and are achieving results.”

The Council of State Governments Justice Center introduced a new website, the 50-State Report on Public Safety, which features more than 300 data visualizations comparing crime, recidivism and state correctional practices. Highlighted innovations come from all 50 states, including Ohio’s  Crisis Intervention Teams, Pennsylvania’s use of performance-based contracts for halfway houses, and New Mexico’s first-in-the-nation requirement that all local and state law enforcement officers carry naloxone.

June 29, 2018

“Battleground Ohio has proven yet again that lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle can still come together to pass meaningful criminal justice reforms that will save the state money and make Ohioans safer.” 
Legislators in Ohio passed Senate Bill 66, which promotes alternatives to incarceration and expands access to record sealing and drug and alcohol treatment programs. The bill, sponsored by Senators John Eklund and Charletta Tavares and backed by Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Gary Mohr, passed this week with overwhelming bipartisan support and awaits Governor Kasich’s signature.

June 29, 2018

“We believe that shedding light on state compassionate release programs is the first step to improving them.”
Families Against Mandatory Minimums released a report this week on the state of compassionate release programs across the country. They found a patchwork of policies, with incomplete, inconsistent and incoherent guidelines and rules. 25 states, including ArizonaIowaKentuckyMichiganMinnesotaNew YorkOhioPennsylvaniaRhode Island and Tennessee, have unclear or insufficient guidance surrounding their compassionate release programs for elderly incarcerated people, and Iowa has no formal compassionate release program at all. The report includes 21 policy recommendations to expand, improve, and publicize programs.  

June 15, 2018

“…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%)

June 15, 2018

“…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.

May 18, 2018

“Those are the better outcomes for everyone, not just the individual, but the community as well.”

Officials in Lucas County, Ohio announced new efforts to provide treatment for those with mental illness, rather than jail stays. An estimated 57% of people released from Lucas County jails have behavioral health needs, and 67% of those still in custody have received mental health services. Programs include the ongoing Opportunity Project, which identifies people in need of treatment before their initial court appearance, and increased funding for case managers and treatment providers.

May 11, 2018

“What is needed for this youth and family to be in a better place in life than when they entered our system?”

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation calls for juvenile probation reforms that would divert more youth from the juvenile justice system to community resources, and transform probation into a more effective intervention for those who remain in the system. The report highlighted the successes of the City of St. Louis’s juvenile probation programs, which have contributed to a 59% drop in new charges for young people on probation, and pointed to diversion programs in Summit County, Ohio and Restorative Justice programs in Davidson County, Tennessee as potential models for reform.

May 4, 2018

“Ohio’s cash bail system is broken and the reforms pending in the General Assembly could save hard-earned taxpayer dollars while keeping our communities safe.”

A new report from Ohio’s Buckeye Institute found that proposed bail reforms could save $67 million in jail costs. The average jail bed in Ohio costs nearly $65 per day, while supervised release costs only $5 per day.  House Bill 439 would provide a risk assessment tool for use in pretrial decision-making, and require courts to collect data on bail, pretrial release, and sentencing.

February 16, 2018

“If we move these services up, you’re striking when the iron’s hot.”

After continued concerns over flaws in the juvenile justice system in Cleveland, officials are looking to Montgomery County as a model for reform. The Montgomery County Juvenile Court’s Intervention Center assesses juveniles immediately after arrest for mental health, substance abuse, and domestic or behavioral issues that could be addressed through specialized services. Assessments also help determine if the case can be resolved through diversion, counseling, treatment or mediation, rather than being referred to juvenile court. This model has helped Montgomery County cut juvenile crime and pricey detention bed stays concurrently.

February 2, 2018

“Courts are centers of justice, not automatic teller machines whose purpose is to generate revenue for governments…”

In a letter to more than 650 Ohio judges, state Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor reminded them to abide by the standards of Bearden v. Georgia, which declared that suspects can’t be jailed because of an inability to pay court-imposed fines and fees when they’ve made good efforts to do so. She acknowledged that many face pressure to generate revenue, but urged them to remember their abiding role as centers as justice.