- Associated Press - Friday, December 13, 2019

Advocates of criminal-sentencing reform in Ohio are pulling their support for a bill after lawmakers added an amendment that would toughen penalties for people convicted within 1,000 feet of a drug-treatment center.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Ohio chapter of Americans for Prosperity said Thursday they are no longer supporting the bill that would reclassify most low-level felony drug possession crimes as misdemeanors, Cleveland.com reported.

The new language in the bill does not require officers or prosecutors to prove a person knew they were in proximity of a treatment center. The advocates say this goes against the premise of the bill - to reduce the number of Ohioans in prison.

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Micah Derry, AFP’s state director in Ohio, said that proponents “were blindsided by the amendments which absolutely weaken and poison the bill.”

“SB3 is meant to address current flaws in our justice system, but the new amendments double down on poorly-developed language,” Derry said.

Gary Daniels, a lobbyist for the ACLU, said a “Statehouse-to-prison pipeline” is created when someone adds “bill language that will deliberately put more people in prison and will affect communities of color more than rural and suburban areas.”

Republican Sen. John Eklund, a sponsor of the bill, said the decision to drop support was “unnecessary.”

“We’re in a process here, and sometimes we do things legislatively designed to elicit comment and reaction,” he said.

Groups representing police, county prosecutors and judges do not support the bill and feel it would eliminate investigative options to hold addicts accountable to treatment programs, Cleveland.com reported.

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