FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 14, 1997
CONTACT: Mike Suver
JOHNSON SPONSORS LEGISLATION TO EXPAND
FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF PRISONERS
COLUMBUS -- State Senator Bruce Johnson (R-Columbus) today announced that he has introduced legislation intended to provide the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) the administrative flexibility to more effectively and efficiently operate as one of the state's largest agencies. The Corrections budget represents nine percent of the total state budget for FY 1998 and FY 1999. Funding has been established for 1998 at $1.291 billion and for 1999 at $1.4 billion, a considerable increase compared to the 1995 and 1996 biennium when funding was set at $1.05 billion and $1.14 billion respectively. Clearly legislation must be enacted that would enable the DRC to manage their budget in the most cost effective manner possible.
Senate Bill 111 addresses a number of administrative areas that are of concern to the Department and would change the law relative to its governance. "We have already made significant headway in streamlining the sentencing process through the passage of a comprehensive criminal sentencing bill and other legislation intended to get tough on juvenile offenders," Johnson said. "It is now time to address the issue of what we can do to allow the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to operate without being suffocated by bureaucratic red tape as it often has been to this point. This bill is the logical continuation of what we have begun in our attempt to reform the criminal justice system in Ohio."
As part of an effort to reduce demand for costly inmate services, the bill would impose user fees for routine medical visits and for access to certain other services, including recreational activities. Prisoners could also be assessed for damages to state and personal property and for the costs of incarceration and supervision. "It has been suggested that some prisoners abuse going to the doctor. This bill will put an end to frivolous medical visits and free staff to provide better care for those inmates who truly need it, rather than the malingerers who make unnecessary trips to the doctor for a hangnail because they would rather not be in their cell," Johnson stated. Reginald Wilkinson, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction agreed. "Individual responsibility isn't suspended due to incarceration. The goal of the medical co-pay program in particular is to improve the overall health care for inmates by eliminating unnecessary medical visits and freeing up staff to provide comprehensive care for those inmates who need it. This step is consistent with the trend of co-pay programs that have been established in other state correction systems."
Since prison inmates are recognized as being at high-risk for contracting infectious disease, testing for tuberculosis and HIV would be permitted under the bill. The measure also proposes a mandatory prison term for employees of the Department found guilty of conveying weapons and drugs onto the grounds of a correctional facility.
"In drafting this piece of legislation with the Department, I was sure to include administrative changes that would help put earlier reforms to work," Johnson said. "For example, DRC's Division of Parole and Community Services will now have greater flexibility in contracting housing for a variety of offenders," Johnson continued. Senate Bill 111 would also consolidate a number of release programs effectively eliminating furloughs. The bill deletes language allowing for unescorted prisoner furloughs and clarifies that escorted visits may be permitted to visit a dying relative or for a funeral of a relative. Deletion of the electronically monitored release sections of the code will eliminate language restrictions in the original statute which have prevented the Department to date from finding qualified bidders for electronic monitoring.
In addition to the provisions mentioned above, Johnson said the bill also addresses reclassification of deputy wardens, insurance for inmate drivers and would permit the Director to provide administrative release for inactive escape cases.
This page last updated: May 22, 1997