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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2011

Ohio bill would divert nonviolent criminals from state prisons

Move could save $78 million a year


COLUMBUS, Ohio  — The Ohio House has approved a bill that would allow nonviolent criminals to serve time in community-based centers instead of more expensive state prisons.

The bill approved by a 96-2 vote Wednesday would also give inmates the chance to earn reduced prison sentences by completing rehabilitation programs.

Legislative analyses predict the legislation could reduce the need for several thousand prison beds by 2015 and save taxpayers as much as $78 million a year.

The bill would also eliminate differences in punishments for convictions involving crack and powdered cocaine and require that probation officers be trained with statewide standards.

The legislation is part of a package of changes to Ohio sentencing laws pending in the House and Senate in an effort to save money by reducing the prison population.

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