Saturday, September 14, 2002

Ohio chief justice objects to proposed drug-treatment law

By The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS - The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court says he's opposed to a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot because he believes it would dilute the authority of judges.

        The proposal, on the ballot as state Issue 1, would require judges to impose drug treatment for offenders convicted under the amendment for the first or second time. Judges now may order treatment but retain the right to send offenders to prison if treatment fails.

        Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, in his annual speech Thursday on the condition of Ohio's judicial system, said that if the change in sentencing policies is made, it should be through legislation rather than a constitutional amendment.

        “We simply should not be amending the constitution with 6,500 words,” he said. “I think it's aborting the system, when one cannot get legislation adopted, to try to amend the constitution. It takes away the discretion of judges.

        “Very, very few first-time possessors of drugs are sentenced to prison unless they are also guilty of a prior felony ... or violate a community sanction.”

        The chief justice also said offenders have told him court-ordered drug treatment programs work because of the threat of sanctions, including prison.

        “We have many people in rehabilitation today under court programs, and that's why they're successful,” he said.


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