Leniency Without Conditions Unwise
A bill being promoted by Ohio state Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, is meant to both reduce low-level drug possessions to misdemeanors and increase penalties for drug dealers, though it is not necessarily being touted as a means to help those in the grip of addiction recover their lives. It is a way to address prison overcrowding.
It also allows for people convicted of low-level drug possession charges to have their records sealed on completion of drug court requirements, and that is important.
But in our area, we have seen evidence on both sides of the river of those who are arrested over and over again on drug charges), but not kept in custody, who wind up in much deeper trouble or even dead.
If lawmakers want to reduce the harm a criminal record could do to those who are truly interested in turning around their lives, fine. More provisions should be made for making sure those who receive less harsh penalties for drug charges are able to get the help they need — and take advantage of it.
Anecdotal evidence suggests there are plenty of people who were not capable of breaking free of their addiction and making a change in their lives until they were incarcerated for an extended period.
Of course, the help most of these folks need costs money. And taxpayer dollars are the reason lawmakers are worried about the state of our prisons to begin with. There is no quick-and-easy solution for this problem.
Lawmakers should consider Obhof’s plan. But merely going easy on those convicted of drug possession, without ensuring they get on track to beating their addictions, may create new problems. For the good of those who find themselves addicted to illicit drugs, any move toward leniency needs to have strings attached.