LOGAN — With the failure of State Issue 1 local members of the Hocking County law enforcement, Hocking County Municipal Court Judge Fred Moses and other community members are all relieved.
“I think the failing of Issue 1 was a great decision by the public of the citizens of Ohio to see that it wasn’t in the best interest of the state, that the long term effect would have been detrimental,” expressed Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North.
In Hocking County, a staggering number of voters were against the amendment change with 8,505 or 76.5 percent. After the first round of ballots had been counted, it was certain that the State Issue would not have a chance when 1,006 voters or 26 percent voted for the issue versus the 2,889 or 74 percent against the change.
State Issue 1 would have “revised, altered, or amended” the Ohio Constitution to convert felony 4 and felony 5 drug possessions and drug use crimes to misdemeanors with no jail time until the third offense within a 24-month period.
The state issue also would have:
— Kept drug trafficking crimes as felonies;
— Prohibited judges from sending people to prison if they violated probation with something other than a new crime, such as missing an appointment;
— Cut prison time for offenders who complete rehabilitation programs (except those convicted of murder, rape or child molestation);
— Reinvested money saved by a lower prison population toward treatment and crime victim programs;
— Allowed people convicted of certain drug crimes to petition the court for re-sentencing or release or to have the charge changed.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican who favors some criminal justice reforms, wrote in an opinion piece that Issue 1 is unconscionable and catastrophic and would hamper drug courts in Ohio.
“If Issue 1 passes, Ohio might have some of the most lenient drug crime laws in the nation,” O’Connor warned.
Agencies supporting Issue 1 were billionaires such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Pricilla Chan, Nicholas and Susan Pritzker of San Francisco and George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center.
The campaign of “Yes” on Issue 1 received $4.5 million of the $4.8 million from out of state sources, according to campaign finance reports filed in July.
One national organization, Faith in Public Life, a network of nearly 50,000 clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice and the common good, held a meeting in October to educate voters on the issue and what voting in support of it would mean.
The Southeast Ohio Organizer, Johanna Tindongan, brought four panelists together from various faith-based organizations and ministries at Rocky Boots in Nelsonville to educate others on their perspectives.
Tindongan summarized the panels take on the issue best when she said, “I don’t believe it’s moral to incarcerate someone that has a mental health addiction. Something that we’ve been saying is that you can’t incarcerate your way out of a public health crisis.”
United Campus Ministries Ohio University Campus Minister, Evan Young, shared his stance on the issue and admired the grassroots movement to make this issue possible for voters to have a say on during the push to get this on the ballot.
“It you look at the way that we currently do things and the consequences for somebody who gets a felony conviction for possession, it’s not just the incarceration, there are lifelong implications when you apply for a job, when you apply for any kind of assistance, when you’re applying for scholarships to apply for school to rebuild your life, your prospects are significantly compromised by that felony conviction and that’s forever,” noted Young.
Although the issue looked nice from the outside, when digging into the details — such as how many times you can get caught with possession and the amount one can carry — it may have steered many away from supporting the amendment change.
“In the big scheme of things, yes, it looked well. It looked like a nice piece of legislature to pass. The other issue was it would change the constitution and once you change the constitution it’s hard to get it back to where it was before,” added North.
When speaking with Judge Moses, he made note that he was fearful in the beginning before the polls closed because if it would have passed, the infrastructure in our society is not in place to handle the problem at hand.
“We pushed as hard as we could to educate people — it wasn’t so much as one way versus the other, people are going to vote how they want to vote — but you need to educate people on what it really was because my big problem with it was I don’t think it was portrayed as what it really did,” explained Moses.
“There was more of a fear of if Issue 1 did pass how was it going to impact our plans (with the former Hocking Correctional Facility) but we’re still moving forward with it. Everybody’s working together and trying to get everything done and get paperwork completed and get it rolling. We need more help for people,” stated Moses.
The former Hocking Correctional Facility is underway to begin leasing agreements with the county after finalization by the state. This new misdemeanor jail will be able to house roughly 300 women who have the option to go through treatment for addictions, behavioral health treatment, along with education so they can once again go back to a working life.
The Appalachian Recovery Project was formed by 19 organizations that came together for one common goal: rehabilitation. Hopewell Health Centers, STAR Community Justice for Community Based Corrections and the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health with Ohio University are just some of the organizations coming together to make this idea and dream a reality.
“It’s hard, but you know what, in the end if we provide number one, a better community for our citizens; number two more jobs are important, it’ll help our economy, a bigger tax base, get more people employed than they are sitting in Hocking County; number three getting it at a really good rate, but number four is, it’s really helping people. Getting them back to productive parts of society,” remarked Moses.