OPINION: ACLU of Ohio urges Ohioans to vote yes on State Issue 1

EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS AN OPINION PIECE. On Nov. 6, Ohio voters will get the chance to weigh in on Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that, if passed, would make major changes to the state's drug laws and how they're enforced.

The issue has become hotly debated – many judges, prosecutors and law enforcement leaders are against it, arguing that it will make it harder to fight drug crime; the issue is supported by numerous civil-liberties and minority groups that argue it's a long-overdue fix to antiquated laws.

Here is a sampling of some of the pro and con arguments swirling around the issue.

The Dayton Daily News is committed to presenting all sides of important issues. To see opinion commentary supporting Issue 1, click here. To see opinion commentary against Issue 1, click here

The ACLU of Ohio urges a "yes" vote on State Issue 1, which will reduce the number of people in state prison and reinvest the savings to drug treatment programs and community services. The ballot measure would amend the state Constitution and require all fourth- and fifth-degree felony offenses for obtaining, possessing, or using drugs or drug paraphernalia to be reclassified as misdemeanors.

» TRENDING: What is State Issue 1 on the Ohio ballot this fall?

“For decades the Ohio General Assembly has refused to acknowledge our over-crowded prisons, has repeatedly increased and enhanced sentences for drug use and possession, and has perpetuated the failed ‘War on Drugs’ in a disastrous way. Ohio voters now have the opportunity to reform our broken criminal justice system by supporting Issue 1,” said Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the ACLU of Ohio. “At its core, the initiative will improve community health, reduce our prison populations, and reinvest in communities.”

WHAT THE CANDIDATES SAY: Governor candidates DeWine, Cordray debate Issue 1

The ballot initiative has several other components, including language that would prevent re-imprisonment of formerly incarcerated community members when their only infraction is a probation violation. “People who miss curfew or an appointment with their probation officer should not be sent to prison,” said Jocelyn Rosnick, policy director for the ACLU of Ohio. “Ohio has a bad habit of relying on mass incarceration to attempt to solve every issue in our society, and Issue 1 will divert thousands of people back into community-based programs where they belong.

“Locking people in a cell does not address addiction or the underlying factors that cause people to use. We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic and our prisons are at 132 percent capacity. We need to do something. We’ve needed to do something. Issue 1 is the solution,” concluded Daniels.