Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera joined fellow county sheriffs with the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association (BSSA) this week in condemning State Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that would liberalize Ohio’s drug laws.
A Wednesday press release from the BSSA said Issue 1 is “irresponsible at a time when deaths from deadly drugs like fentanyl continue to rise.”
Barrera told The Times-Gazette on Thursday that Issue One will “wreak havoc” on the justice system and flood Ohio’s streets with drugs.
“It makes the possession of any amount of deadly drugs, including fentanyl, nothing more than a misdemeanor,” he said. “It forbids jail sentencing for the first two offenses no matter what quantities of drug they have… People caught with drugs will laugh at police knowing they cannot be jailed.”
According to the Dayton Daily News, Issue 1 does the following:
• Converts fourth- and fifth-degree felony drug possession and drug use crimes to misdemeanors with no jail time for first and second offenses committed within a 24-month period, but keeps drug trafficking crimes as felonies.
• Prohibits judges from sending defendants to prison if they violate probation with something other than committing a new crime, such as missing an appointment.
• Cuts prison time for offenders who complete rehabilitation programs, except those convicted of murder, rape or child molestation.
• Directs funds saved by decreased incarceration toward drug treatment and crime victim programs.
• Allows those convicted of certain drug crimes to petition the court for resentencing or release, or to have the charge amended.
Barrera said the amendment could mean the release of as many as 10,000 felony offenders from state prisons.
Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson, president of the BSSA, said in the release, “Issue 1 is bad for law enforcement. Right now we need all the help we can get to trap the traffickers. Now is not the time for a high-risk, unproven approach that will remove the threat of jail for possession of even large amounts of drugs.”
Bob Cornwell, executive director of the BSSA, added, “Not only will Issue 1 make our jobs more difficult, but it will also result in huge cost increases for local government when most local governments are feeling a pinch anyway.”
Barrera said he will continue campaigning against the issue until Election Day.
“There are so many things I feel are wrong with this issue, and there’s a lot of people in the state that feel the same way,” he said.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.