Panel talks viewpoints on Ohio Issue 1 in Steubenville
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ohio —
Both supporters and opponents of Issue 1 in Ohio met Thursday night for a panel in Steubenville.
Supporters of Issue 1 said the aim is to reduce the unsustainable prison population in Ohio, get addicts into treatment more quickly and prevent them from having felonies on their record, which they say destroy their prospects for a productive life.
"For over 40 years we've tried to arrest, convict and incarcerate our way out of this problem, and I believe, by any objective measure, the war of drugs has been an absolute failure,” said Gary Daniels of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
Opponents said Issue 1 is the wrong approach.
Issue 1 would reduce minor possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors and use money saved from jailing offenders and direct it to treatment.
The lone opponent on a four-member panel said Issue 1 would tie the hands of judges.
"You can't legislate that everyone is the same. Everyone is not the same in the state of Ohio. The judges should have the right to say it's a felony, or you need go to jail because it's violent -- what you did,” said Jefferson County GOP Party Chair Matt Parise.
Supporters said it's because of inequalities that Issue 1 needs passed.
"Two-thirds of Ohio counties don't even have a drug court system, so those folks in rural areas that don't have a drug court system have to drive 45, 60 minutes to have a way for any type of treatment,” said Michael Walenciei of Ohio River Valley Voices.
Supporters also said without the benevolence and accountability of drug courts, addicts are often fighting failure alone.
"We've created a multi-generational underclass of society with felony records who can't put their lives back together,” Daniels said.
Like nurses on the front lines facing and treating addiction, or sometimes their own.
Richard olivito, midwest center for constitutional rights
"She was threatened with felony prosecution on a first-time offense. It ruined her career. What ended up happening is she was completely exonerated, and it still ruined her career. She couldn't get a job,” said Richard Olivito of the Midwest Center for Constitutional Rights.
"And these things all need to change. And I wish the legislature would do it. I wish we didn't have to do this as a constitutional amendment, but when the legislature refuses to act, it's time for the people to do so,” Daniels said.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.