COLUMBUS, Ohio — Increased staff and rehabilitative programs could soon be added to Ohio correctional facilities thanks to Gov. John Kasich’s mid-biennium budget. The $53.5 million infusion to the state’s strained correctional system would be used to hire nearly 90 new employees, mostly correctional officers, and establish new beds in halfway houses and community-based correctional centers.
The announcement comes just two months after Cleveland.com announced that the state’s prison population was approaching a record high. In January 2014, Ohio’s prison population was projected to top 51,000 by the end of June, nearly 8 percent more than officials predicted in 2012. The state’s prison numbers have already more than doubled in the past 25 years, jumping from just below 25,000 in the late 1980s to more than 50,000 in December 2013. According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), the statewide system was designed to hold just 38,579. This has forced many of the state’s 28 prisons to house two or three inmates in a single cell, which can lead to increased violence, according to the department.
In response, Ohio has also instituted various education and job skills training programs to help decrease recidivism and manage the prison population. As of January 2014, nearly 2,500 inmates across nine facilities were participating in these programs and they were seeing positive results, according to Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio DRC.
In a March 5 press statement, Mohr announced a record low in recidivism at just 27.1 percent. This was an improvement from the 2013 rate of 28.7 percent as well as the 2012 rate of 31.2 percent. This also puts Ohio well below the national recidivism average, which hovers between 40 percent and 44 percent.
“When measured against the national recidivism rates for the proportion of people who return to prison within three years, Ohio has emerged and remains a leader,” Mohr said in a statement. “Reducing recidivism is the mission of this agency and at the core of everything we do. We are doing great things in our prisons and with our community partners to better prepare offenders for life after prison and help them become productive members of society upon release. Reduced recidivism increases the safety of Ohio’s communities.”
These improvements can be attributed to a number of programs and initiatives, including the continued use of evidence-based programs, the growth of reintegration units within state prisons, enhanced programs to help offenders maintain contact with families and resources, and continued work with local communities and reentry coalitions.