Ballot Insights: Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment Initiative

The 2018 Ohio Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment was a ballot initiative aiming to change Ohio constitution to achieve four goals: (1) change drug possession felonies to misdemeanors, (2) prohibit prison sentences for technical probation violations, (3) expand the ability to earn up to 25% off a prison sentence through rehabilitative programming, and (4) redirect funds saved from reduced incarceration to drug treatment and victims’ services. On November 6, the initiative, also known as Issue 1, was soundly defeated 63.4% to 36.6%.

Our series, Ballot Insights, aimed to unpack the complicated issues and provide a venue for informed discussion of the individual policy proposals included in this proposed constitutional amendment. The series opened up with a conversation about the content of the amendment and the issues connected with using direct democracy to pursue these sorts of legal and policy changes. It then continued with three events focused on the proposed sentencing and probation changes, credit-earning opportunities for incarcerated individuals and redirecting funds to treatment and victims’ services. Finally, the series will conclude with a post-election analysis of voting results.

Ballot Insights Poster

September 13 - The Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment: Step in the Right Direction?

Direct democracy through ballot initiative has a long history in the United States. In recent years, criminal justice reform advocates have turned to initiatives to achieve victories on a number of diverse issues, including victims’ rights, sentencing reform, marijuana legalization and favoring drug treatment over incarceration. But as the use of ballot initiatives has grown, so has a debate among scholars and government professionals about the potential benefits and drawbacks of using direct democracy to legislate complex and nuanced policy matters. Our panel of experts discussed the ballot initiative's aims and objectives, and drew on lessons from other states to discuss the pros and cons of harnessing the power of the people to achieve intricate policy changes.

Panelists:

  • Daniel Dew, Legal Fellow, Buckeye Institute
  • Steven JohnsonGrove, Attorney/Deputy Director for Policy, Ohio Justice and Policy Center
  • Louis Tobin, Executive Director, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association

PANELISTS' BIOS

Moderator:

  • Douglas A. Berman, Executive Director, Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, Moritz College of Law
October 4 - Earning Freedom: Working Toward Sentence Reduction

EVENT RECORDING

The state of Ohio currently allows people serving time in prison to earn up to 8% of their sentence via participation in approved rehabilitative programming. This is the lowest percentage of available “earned time credit” for any state prison system in the nation.  The proposed amendment would increase this number to 25%, a significant change to someone’s ability to shorten their time behind bars. Our panel of experts discussed the potential challenges connected to instituting this form of prison reform via a ballot initiative and what type of challenges might be encountered in implementing this change should the amendment be approved by voters.

Panelists:

  • Shon Hopwood, Georgetown University Law Center
  • David Phillips, Prosecutoring Attorney, Union County, past president of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association
  • Sasha Naiman, Attorney/Deputy Director, Ohio Justice and Policy Center

PANELISTS' BIOS

Moderator:

  • Douglas A. Berman, Executive Director, Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, Moritz College of Law
October 18 - Devil in the Details: Funding Effective Rehabilitation and Treatment

The cost of the opioid crisis counted in lives lost and permanently altered has been well documented over the last few years as public awareness has risen and families from all walks of lives have been affected. One of the aims of the Ohio Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment is to provide additional funding for treatment and rehabilitation for people struggling with substance use disorder.  However, not all treatment is created equal and the amendment is silent on how to ensure that funds go to proven effective treatment programs. Our panel of experts discussed challenges connected to the actual implementation of the initiative, the issue of insufficient access to treatment, the importance of Medicaid expansion and the latest evidence on the effectiveness of various treatment programs and strategies. 

Panelists:

  • Daniel Skinner, PhD, Assistant Professor, Health Policy, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ohio University
  • Phil Nunes, Chief Operating Officer, Alvis, Inc.
  • Dustin Mets, JD, Chief Executive Officer, CompDrug

Moderator:

Taleed El-Sabawi, JD, PhD candidate in College of Public Health, The Ohio State University

PANELISTS' BIOS

November 1 - Sentencing and Parole Reform in Practice: Insights on Implementation Challenges

Sentencing reform focused on non-violent drug offenses has gained considerable support both at the state and federal level. As policymakers seek to find ways to lessen penalties associated with these types of crimes and provide retroactive relief to people effected by the war on drugs, the evidence from a number of states suggests achieving this goal might be more challenging than previously imagined. Our panel of experts discussed the potential impact of the ballot initiative on the criminal justice system and communities disproportionally affected by the war on drugs, and what steps should Ohio take to prepare for its possible passage to ensure that barriers to the promised relief are minimized for all.  

Panelists:

  • Sarah Andrews, Director, Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission
  • Alex Kreit, JD, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; visiting professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
  • Carol O’Brien, JD, Delaware County Prosecutor
  • Reginald Wilkinson, EdD, President, Connecting the Dots, LLC; former Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitations and Corrections

Moderator:

Kyle Strickland, JD, Kirwan Institute, The Ohio State University

PANELISTS' BIOS

November 29 - The Passage or Failure of The Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment: What Can We Learn from Ohio's Voting Patterns?

The Ohio criminal justice reform initiative, also known as Issue 1, was soundly defeated at the polls on November 6. In its aftermath, officials in Franklin County have proposed to the Ohio legislature a set of reforms that purport to be a better approach to the concerns Issue 1 sought to address, and the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission is also discussing changes to Ohio’s drug laws. Our last installment in our Ballot Insights series focused on the post-election analysis of Ohio’s voting patterns and what should be the next steps for sensible criminal justice reform in the state of Ohio given the public statements of many elected officials expressing their support for getting something done.

Panelists:

  • Sara Andrews, Executive Director, Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission
  • Lara Baker-Morrish, City Solicitor General, City of Columbus
  • Douglas A. Berman, Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law, Director, DEPC
  • Dennis Cauchon, President, Harm Reduction Ohio
  • Stephen JohnsonGrove, Deputy Director for Policy, Ohio Justice & Policy Center

Moderator:

Alex Kreit, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; visiting professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law