COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced the Senate's recent passage of bipartisan legislation that would make a number of comprehensive improvements to Ohio's criminal justice system.

Senate Bill 66, co-sponsored by Obhof, will reform Ohio's sentencing laws to allow offenders to have a fair shot at rehabilitation without being subjected to unfair penalties. The legislation gives judges more discretion, bolsters Intervention in Lieu of Conviction programs, makes changes to the presumptive return to prison for technical parole violations and expands the eligibility for conviction record sealing. The bill received broad support from across the political spectrum for its reasonable, "smart on crime" approach.

"This legislation allows us to be tough yet smart on crime with the goal of enhancing public safety and reducing recidivism," said Obhof.

"By limiting the number of low-level, non-violent offenders in our prison system, more focus can be put on protecting Ohioans from violent crimes," said Senator John Eklund (R-Munson Township), the bill's primary sponsor.

The legislation is aimed at reducing recidivism and prison time for low-level, non-violent, non-sex offenders, who make up the fastest growing portion of the state's prison population due in part to the drug epidemic. To accomplish this, the bill would:

Add rehabilitation to the purposes of felony sentencing, to provide offenders with a renewed opportunity to find gainful employment after serving a prison sentence;

Expand eligibility for intervention in lieu of conviction for individuals who committed criminal acts due to addiction to drugs or alcohol;

Grant judges discretion to use treatment rather than jail if an offender has a relapse; and

Reduce the maximum amount of time an offender can be sent to prison for a post-release control sanction (which are often technical violations unrelated to the severity of the underlying conviction) from 9 months to 90 days.

Senate Bill 66 will now go to the Ohio House of Representative for further consideration.