Ohioans will soon be voting on Issue 1, a ballot initiative that is ostensibly about reforming drug laws, but actually is about giving “get out of jail free” cards to not only drug offenders, but dozens of other kinds of criminals in Ohio’s prisons. The ballot initiative is known as “The Neighborhood Safety Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment” and is a six-page amendment to the Ohio Constitution.
(You can read the actual language of the ballot, as well as pro and con arguments regarding the issue at the non-partisan voting information site, ivoters.com.)
The premise is that too many non-violent criminals are clogging up the courts and prison system and we need to get them out of prisons and back into society. Supposedly this will save the state of Ohio a ton of money. Prison expenditures should only be for violent offenders, proponents say.
Only that’s not what will happen if Issue 1 passes. Here are three reasons Issue 1 is a terrible idea.
1. Drug convictions will only count as misdemeanors
This initiative would reduce all sentences for criminals who are guilty of illegal drug possession, drug trafficking, or possession of drug paraphernalia. The new law, which would become part of the Ohio Constitution — not the Ohio Revised Code — would mandate that everyone found guilty of drug violations be charged only with a misdemeanor.
Selling cocaine or heroin or fentanyl? You would be slapped with the equivalent of a parking ticket. Repeat offender? No big deal. If you have been convicted one or two times in a two-year period of time, there shall be no penalty stronger than probation. Yep, it says that in Issue 1. Go read it for yourself.
The proposal goes on to say that current prisoners may appeal their sentences for drug violations and also get them reduced to misdemeanors. So, convicts can bypass parole boards and basically write their own tickets to get out of jail. The initiative says that incarcerated individuals shall earn a one-half-day credit on their sentences for each day they participate in rehabilitation, work, or educational programs — up to 25 percent of their sentence. This applies, by the way, to all convicted criminals except murderers, rapists, child molesters, or those who have been sentenced to death or life without parole.
2. It will let dangerous criminals out of prison
Is letting criminals reduce their own sentences (thus bypassing parole boards) a good idea? Notice that the proposed law states that the ONLY exceptions to a reduction of sentencing are for those convicted of murder, rape, child molestation, and those on death row or with life sentences. It says nothing at all about prisoners convicted of other violent crimes.
That means those convicted of any other felonies can now reduce their sentences, just like the drug offenders … and get out of jail. Isn’t that just wonderful? Now, what other kinds of felonies are there? Let’s see, there’s aggravated assault, attempted murder, felonious assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated menacing, kidnapping (won’t all the human traffickers love this?), extortion, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition, voyeurism, prostitution, stalking, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, identity theft, domestic violence, arson… I could go on and on.
Everyone convicted of these crimes would be eligible to get their sentences reduced to misdemeanors, and judges could do nothing about it.
Imagine for a moment someone selling fentanyl. This, of course, is part of the opioid epidemic, killing people left and right. A drug bust in Nebraska recently found 118 pounds of fentanyl — enough to kill 26 million people. Another bust in New York City (200 pounds of fentanyl) had enough of the opioid to kill 32 million people.
Currently in Ohio, if you possess 20 grams of fentanyl, you are labeled a drug trafficker and sentenced accordingly. Under this new “progressive” law, someone who possesses 19 grams of fentanyl (enough to kill 10,000 people) would not be considered a drug trafficker. Police would only be able to slap the seller on the wrist and give him or her the equivalent of a parking ticket.
What a wonderful message that will send to all the drug traffickers (and accompanying human traffickers) around the world: Come to Ohio, sell your most deadly drugs, and all you’ll get is a slap on the wrist!
If Issue 1 passes in Ohio, the state constitution will mandate that these types of dangerous criminals will have the opportunity to get all their sentences reduced to a misdemeanor. And there is nothing a state judge or the state legislator or the governor can do about it. This amendment would tie the hands of judges and prosecutors. The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Maureen O’Connor, warned that Issue 1 “will have catastrophic consequences for our state.” Paul Pfeifer, former Ohio Supreme Court justice, said that Issue 1 is a “horrible idea.”
Many attorneys defending the criminals will love this proposed law, but do we really want our courts tied up even more with a flood of dangerous criminals using a new law to reduce their sentences to misdemeanors? Do we really want a poorly-worded six-page document added as an amendment to the Ohio Constitution? Isn’t changing drug laws the role of state legislators? Isn’t the Ohio Revised Code the place for any new laws about illegal drugs, so that if the law turns out to be a bad one or is unworkable, the legislature can change it? If it is in the constitution, however, the legislature won’t have that option. It could only be repealed by a new amendment.
3. The ballot initiative is funded by out-of-state leftists
Who is behind this amendment? Ballotpedia lists various groups that are backing it — groups such as Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Ohio Justice & Policy Center, Alliance for Safety and Justice, and George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center. The usual cast of radical, left-wing, progressive “community organizing” groups (plus a few new ones I had not heard of) support it. They have every right to organize, file petitions, get signatures, and put this issue on the ballot. They did this legally.
It is very disconcerting to read from the Ohio Secretary of State exactly who is bankrolling this proposed amendment. The vast majority of big donors are not from Ohio. They are from California and the northeast (New York). Many are from Silicon Valley, not exactly known for conservative thought. Again, people can donate to whatever cause they want. But who are these donors?
Notice the “Chan Zuckerberg Initiative” donation of $1 million? That’s an organization founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. It is not a big secret that Mark Zuckerberg is a “progressive” who is known for supporting former President Obama and is suspected of censoring conservatives on Facebook.
Notice also in the list of donors (you’ll have to scroll a page or two or three) the many contributions from the Tides Foundation and the Open Society Policy Center. The Tides Foundation is vast, deep, and well-heeled. Founded by Drummond Pike in 1976, it funds left-wing, progressive causes around the world. George Soros is not the leader of Tides, but he is a “heavy hitter” who sends millions to the group.
Through his Open Society Foundation, George Soros helps fund Tides, and Tides, in turn, sends money to things like this Issue 1 on the Ohio ballot. The Open Society Foundation sent $1 million to fund Issue 1. Soros knows what he’s doing. He knows that his donation will allow him to own a piece of the Ohio Constitution — if Ohioans fall for it.
Why would these progressive billionaires — who won’t have to live in Ohio and suffer the consequences of a bad constitutional amendment — want this in Ohio?
Issue 1 has received approximately $5 million — the vast majority of it from out of state. Now, $5 million is pocket change to Zuckerberg and Soros and their billionaire socialist pals. Is this a probe to see how well this kind of “under-the-radar” ballot initiative will do in a somewhat conservative Midwestern state? Ohio is a key swing state… wouldn’t that be something if the leftists from California and New York could turn Ohio into a “forward operating base” or testing ground for their ideas about dealing with drugs?
If they are successful, it will cost them only pennies (comparatively speaking). But it will cost the citizens of Ohio plenty.
For yet more reasons to vote against it, turn to the nationwide radio program “The Public Square.”