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Over the past 16 years, parole in Ohio has quietly become a pipe dream for most convicts as parole numbers have dropped substantially during this interval. A new report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee reveals that during this time, the number of convicts paroled annually has dropped from thousands to just dozens. In fact, only 61 prisoners were paroled in 2013 — and only after serving an average of 18 years in prison—a small fraction of the thousands paroled annually in the 90s.
Parole in Ohio has been declining significantly since sentencing laws were changed in 1996 to make sentencing more exact. These “truth in sentencing” laws changed Ohio sentencing policies of handing down a minimum and a maximum sentence and letting the Ohio Parole Board decide when an individual was rehabilitated enough for release to one where judges gave exact sentences to be served in full.
While this gave so-called “new law” convicts more certainty, the changes put prisoners convicted before 1996 in more limbo. As time goes on, more and more “old law” prisoners are forced to serve the maximum sentence possible, regardless of efforts to rehabilitate themselves—a consequence unlikely foreseen by the judges sentencing them originally.
There are currently still 8,793 prisoners under the jurisdiction of the parole board in Ohio. These prisoners are unlikely to get any relief from the maximum term handed down under the “old law” system. Two decades ago, most offenders had the opportunity of parole just after serving the minimum sentence if they behaved in prison, but nowadays, that opportunity is virtually nonexistent. These remaining offenders are caught in legal limbo with little hope of parole any time soon.
Officials point out that most of these prisoners still not paroled are violent and serious offenders who probably would not have been paroled regardless; after all, 4,635 of the remaining 8,793 prisoners were sentenced for murder or aggravated murder and 2,043 are serving time for rape. Advocates argue, however, that the parole board no longer considers all the factors that they should when approving or denying parole. They say that the parole board puts too much weight on the severity of the original charges, rather than the rehabilitative programs completed by inmates during prison.
In any case, parole may become a thing of the past in Ohio with time, making this discussion moot. People sentenced today are given an exact sentence with little chance of early release. With such slim chances of getting leniency, people arrested today must take the charges very seriously or risk a long prison term. If you are arrested in Ohio, call the Columbus criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck, and Associates today at to schedule a free consultation on your case. Learn how we may be able to help you fight the charges and get the best outcome possible after your arrest.