Columbus—Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and the members of the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee detailed their ongoing work at a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse. The 24-member committee is charged with rewriting the criminal laws of the State of Ohio by next August. Its membership includes legislators, judges, defense and prosecuting attorneys, and representatives from the law enforcement and corrections community.

Senator Thomas laid out his priorities at the press conference, which are as follows:

  • Addressing over-incarceration: There are over 50,000 people in Ohio prisons today. While serious offenders should be punished for their actions and public safety should be protected, over-incarceration limits the potential of thousands of Ohioans and erodes the fabric of families and communities.
  • Confronting disparities in the justice system: While African Americans make up only 12.5% of Ohio’s total population, they represent 45% of the state’s prison population. There are also geographic disparities where sentencing outcomes differ from county to county within the state.
  • Alternatives to incarceration for drug offenders and the mentally ill: Nonviolent drug offenders make up nearly 15% of Ohio’s prisoners. There has been progress in getting mental health and addiction services into Ohio’s prisons, but more people must be reached before they are incarcerated. 

“It is critically important that this committee seek out and take into account the perspective of our urban minority communities,” said Senator Thomas. “Any work that is done on criminal justice is incomplete without input from the people that will be most impacted by reforms.”

Senator Thomas plans to draw on his experience as a Cincinnati police officer to inform his work on the Recodification Committee. He also serves as the Ranking Member on the permanent Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

“In my long experience with the criminal justice system, dealing with every sort of crime, it is obvious that certain mistakes should not ruin a person’s life,” said Senator Thomas. “We can address things like nonviolent drug offenses and mental illness in constructive ways that protect public safety without prison being the default answer.” 

Senator Thomas represents Ohio’s 9th district, which includes parts of Cincinnati, St. Bernard, Elmwood Place, Norwood, Golf Manor, Hollydale, Columbia Township, Silverton and Springfield Township.

 
 
 
  
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