- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio hopes to help curb rising numbers of women inmates in the state’s prisons through a program that focuses on community programs as an alternative to incarceration.

A state budget provision allows the director of Ohio’s prisons to move nonviolent, low-level felony drug offenders out of prison and into community programs or electronically monitored house arrest if they have less than a year remaining of their sentence, The Columbus Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/1P04BYZ ).

The move marks the first time the director has been authorized by legislators to shorten prison sentences. Ohio Prisons Director Gary Mohr said qualifying inmates will go through a demanding preparation program of eight to 10 hours a day for two weeks.

“This is going to be a very structured, very rigorous, very rigid approach to transitioning people back to the community,” Mohr said. “This is like going to boot camp.”

The Sentencing Project, a national prisoner-advocacy group, reported that female prison intake is increasing nearly double the rate for men. Mohr said drug-related offenses are the number one sentence for women coming to prison.

Female prisoners cost taxpayers more to incarcerate because of staffing patterns and increased health and mental-health services, Mohr said.

Cynthia Mauser, managing director of courts and community programs for the state, said the budget provision for early release covers the treatment transfer program, which is funded by $58 million included in the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction budget over two years to expand community programs.

The program is expected to begin in March, and more than 2,000 male and female inmates are likely to be eligible this year. Women will get first priority.


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com

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