Ohio’s judges are frustrated by a new state law that requires them to ask the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for non-prison alternatives before sentencing first-time, nonviolent offenders, the Columbus Dispatch
Offenders convicted of fourth- or fifth-degree felonies must now be sentenced to community-control programs such as probation, drug treatment, or county jail rather than being sent to state prison.
Common Pleas Court judge Richard Berens said the new law is bad public policy that removes judicial discretion. Berens added it might violate the Constitution by allowing the executive branch of government to override the judicial branch.
Sen. Bill Seitz, the Cincinnati Republican who sponsored the law, disagreed that the provision undermines judicial discretion, or the separation of powers, because the state legislature frequently enacts laws that affect what judges can do, including the requirement to impose mandatory minimum sentences.
Further, he said the new law will help the state save money by not overloading the prison system.
In Ohio, fourth-degree felonies carried a maximum of 18 months in state prison, and fifth-degree felonies carried up to a year before legislators passed the new sentencing law.
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