Originally Published by: The Blade
By: David Safavian
Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts said a judge’s job is “to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”
Unfortunately, some of Ohio’s judges are ignoring the advice of Justice Roberts. Speaking like politicians rather than jurists, they are engaging in a campaign to defeat Issue 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot. By doing so, they undermine public confidence in an independent judiciary.
Issue 1 would reduce Ohio’s prison population by reclassifying lower level drug possession crimes as misdemeanors, rather than felonies that carry lifetime consequences. It would allow prisoners to earn time off their sentences by participating in programs that cut recidivism and make us safer.
These commonsense reforms reflect the public attitude on criminal justice. It’s no wonder that 350,000 Ohioans signed the petition to get Issue 1 on the ballot.
Predictably, prosecutors oppose the initiative. But judges backing the prosecutors in their war against the ballot measure threatens the public’s faith in the judiciary.
Courts will still have tools to encourage addicts to get treatment. Judges can fashion tough conditions of probation and repeat offenders can face up to 180 days in jail.
Judges can threaten addicts with jail time all they want. Ohio prisons are not equipped as detox centers. The key is to fully fund community rehab programs. Issue 1 requires that savings be directed to drug treatment programs.
Seeing judges work to thwart this initiative raises serious concerns regarding the role of the judiciary and the impartiality of the courts.
The writer is General Counsel of the American Conservative Union.