The state's judges now have a new sentencing law designed to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison. The law is aimed at reducing prison crowding and saving money.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Eleanor Marsh Stormer agrees that some non-violent first time offenders don't do well in the lock-up.
She tells AkronNewsNow "There are statistics that support that there are certain places where non-violent first time offenders are being sent to prison. And what we've learned about that is that if yout put a non-violent first time offender in prison it tends to make them worse."
Stormer says first-time offenders such as those facing drug and theft convictions have a better outcome with alternative sentencing programs than going to prison.
The veteran judge says Summit County is already offering alternative sentencing programs that other counties will have to implement to comply with the new sentencing law.
Stormer also likes another aspect of the new law that can shorten prison stays ." if they take classes and try to improve themselves they can reduce their prison sentence. That can be taken away at any time if there is bad behavior. It really doesn't affect the judges, but it is a positive."
She says only time will tell if the other provisions of what she calls a complicated sentencing law are successful in reducing the state's prison population.
The new sentencing law is aimed at shrinking Ohio's prison population to about 47,000 inmates by 2015.
Ohio has about 51,000 inmates in 31 prisons built to hold about 38,000 prisoners. The state estimates the inmate population will rise to 54,000 in four years without action.
Prisons director Gary Mohr tells the Associated Press 12,000 inmates are serving sentences of under a year and some of those for just a few months