New Program Aimed at Reducing Prison Population for Low-Level Offenders to Begin in July
The State of Ohio announced a new program that seeks to reduce the prison population by sending low-level felony offenders to county jails and community alternative programs as opposed to prison.
The program is called T-CAP, Targeting Community Alternatives to Prison.
T-CAP will go into effect in July 2018 and will apply only to those convicted of fifth degree felony offenses. The Ohio General Assembly passed, and Governor John Kasich signed into law, T-CAP to reduce the state's burgeoning prison population while also allowing fifth degree felony offenders to receive treatment for addition and mental health issues. The state will provide grant money to counties to implement T-CAP, which will be used to hire more local probation officers and better equip local jail facilities to handle the influx of inmates. The goal of T-CAP is to reduce Ohio's prison population -- currently about 49,000 inmate -- by 3,400 inmates. The 3,400 inmates represent offenders serving prison time for fifth degree felony offenses.
By law, T-CAP will go into effect in Franklin County and Ohio's other most populous counties. Forty other counties have volunteered to implement T-CAP.
Proponents say T-CAP will reduce Ohio's prison population. Gary Mohr, the director of Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, believes T-CAP will bring true change to Ohio's criminal justice systems and "believe[s] that we are on the cusp of making a real difference in folks’ lives."
Opponents of T-CAP says that it will transfer the burden (and expense) of housing fifth degree felony offenders from the state prisons to local jails, which are run by counties and municipalities. Further, T-CAP will limit judicial discretion, opponents argue, and will effectively eliminate the fifth degree felony category by reclassifying those individuals as misdemeanor offenders.
Not all fifth degree felony offenders are eligible for T-CAP. Those are who have an offense of violence or sex offense on their record are not eligible for T-CAP. Also, those who are required by law to serve a mandatory prison term are not eligible.
Under Ohio law, a judge my sentence a fifth degree felony offender to prison from six to 12 months.
Surely, T-CAP will allow some low-level felony offenders to receive vital treatment and get back on their feet before re-entering society. However, the cost of T-CAP and the burden it will place on the already over-burdened county jails is unknown.
See more coverage of T-CAP here: