You may have heard there’s a big election on the horizon. What you may not have heard is how much more important this election is in Ohio than a lot of other places. That’s because on November 6th, you’re going to be asked to cast a vote on Issue 1, a ballot initiative called, rather euphemistically, the “Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment.”
That sounds great, right? Safe neighborhoods. Treatment and rehabilitation for drug addicts. Who wouldn’t support that? But don’t be fooled; Issue 1 masquerades as sound public policy, but would in fact amend our state constitution to allow for the early release of violent criminals, make it more difficult to get help for drug addicts, and handcuff Ohio’s law enforcement efforts against drug trafficking in our state.
Aside from such a measure having no business being ingrained in our constitution, if Issue 1 passes, it will hamstring our judges and devastate our most vulnerable communities.
Virtually all of Ohio’s 700-plus judges are opposed to Issue 1. That means judges from both parties are united in agreement that this is a bad thing. Law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, magistrates, probation officers – all of them agree that Issue 1 must fail.
So what is Issue 1? Its supporters say that it promotes treatment for drug users and is all about getting addicts the help they need. In fact, it does no such thing.
For starters, Issue 1 reduces drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. In other words, possessing any amount of deadly drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and meth will result in probation – which is a lighter punishment than offenses like disorderly conduct and reckless operation. That sends the message to drug traffickers that doing business in Ohio is low risk.
Issue 1 also prohibits judges from incarcerating offenders for drug possession charges until their third conviction in 24 months. And it limits a judge’s ability to send felons to prison when they violate probation. Even violent offenders cannot be sent to prison for probation violations. They’ll be free to disregard judges’ orders with little consequence.
And, perhaps worst of all, Issue 1 gives almost all inmates currently in Ohio’s prisons the opportunity to earn up to a 25% credit off of their sentence. This early release includes offenders who have been sentenced for violent and dangerous crimes such as attempted murder, felonious assault, terrorism, aggravated robbery, human trafficking, kidnapping and drug trafficking, to name just a few. And it also eliminates mandatory sentencing for offenses involving gang activity, major drug offenders, violent career criminals, sexually violent predators and others.
Read those last two sentences again. Issue 1 provides early release to violent offenders and going forward makes it harder to put such offenders in prison.
Issue 1 supporters admit that if it passes, more than 3,600 imprisoned felons will gain early release. But that figure is low. In reality, passage of Issue 1 would enable the immediate release of roughly 10,000 felons – some of them violent offenders – back into our communities.
There are plenty of reasons to vote no on Issue 1 – at least 10,000 of them. But perhaps the most important reason of all is that Issue 1 is actually a constitutional amendment. If it passes, this jailbreak proposal will be enshrined in Ohio’s constitution, and it won’t be possible to change even a single word of it without another constitutional amendment that could require a years-long effort.
So how did this happen? How did this devious proposal end up on our ballot? The story behind that might provide the best reason of all to vote against this monstrosity. Here’s what happened:
A while back, an outside group from California slipped into Ohio under everyone’s radar. The group had a nearly unlimited budget, with millions of dollars from two main sources – Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and the harmless-sounding Open Society Policy Center, which is actually an organization funded by billionaire George Soros. With all that money, the Issue 1 folks quietly set about circulating petitions and gathering the necessary signatures.
Frankly, Ohio’s legal and law enforcement people were caught flat-footed. By the time they were aware of the ballot measure, the Issue 1 folks had taken all the needed steps to get the amendment on our ballot.
With a giant organizational head-start, and with more than 20 million dollars to spend on commercials, billboards, yard signs and volunteers to blanket Ohio, the Issue 1 proponents were off and running. They even had the money to buy celebrities and athletes to promote their cause.
Why do these groups want to inflict this madness on Ohio? The Californians say that prison money should be focused only on violent and serious offenders as opposed to low-level felony drug users. But we’ve already seen that the amendment would allow the early release of people who are in prison for attempted murder, domestic violence and other violent crimes.
Issue 1 supporters also say that drug addiction is a serious societal problem that presents public health and safety concerns and that incarcerating users rather than providing treatment poses a threat to public safety and is an inefficient use of criminal justice resources.
But judges already channel many addicts into rehabilitation programs. And a lot of addicts forego treatment entirely without the threat of prison hanging over them. Taking that threat away will only make the problem worse.
The real reason behind this George Soros-led social engineering project is that the Issue 1 folks believe that America has an “over-incarceration problem.” In their view, there are too many people in prison, and this amendment is a step toward correcting that – even if it means releasing thousands of violent felons into our midst and restricting our state from prosecuting offenders in the future.
But the Californians won’t have to live with the consequences of Issue 1. We will. So when you vote on November 6th, please consider how “safe” your neighborhood will be if Issue 1 passes.