Currently, Ohio spends $1.7 billion annually on incarceration, while its prisons—designed to incarcerate 38,000 people—are at 134% of their official design capacity. Between 2005 and 2016, the Ohio prison population increased by 15.1% to reach the thirteenth highest in the nation. 


Over the last decade, the state’s prison population has grown by 15.1%, and the prison system has struggled to keep up. The state has an official design capacity of 38,000 inmates, which the state has surpassed by more than 134%. Annually Ohio spends $1.7 billion on incarceration at an annual cost to taxpayers of $25,000 for each person incarcerated in the state.  


Ohio is one of only seven states that impose prison terms of less than one year instead of utilizing local jails or community supervision. Like many other states in the rust belt, Ohio, has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic. People convicted of non-violent drug offenses accounted for 27% of the state’s commitments in 2015.  A study conducted by the ACLU of Ohio and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center found that “1 in 4 of all people newly admitted to prison in Ohio are there for a drug offense” and “1 in 8 people are there specifically for drug possession.” Furthermore, the study also found that out of 105 mandatory minimums that currently exist in the Ohio penal code, 77% percent relate to drug offenses. This is despite a burgeoning body of research that shows no link between incarceration rates and the prevalence of drug use. On the contrary, alternatives to incarceration like drug-treatment facilities have been shown to be more effective and less expensive.  


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