Officials brainstorm ways to reduce OH prison costs - Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

Officials brainstorm ways to reduce OH prison costs

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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

By Matt Wright - bio | email

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Crime and punishment comes at a huge cost to Ohio taxpayers.

In fact, Ohio's 50,441 prison inmates each cost the state an average of $23,725 annually.

With additional state budget cuts looming, legal experts from across the country, legislators and law students met in Toledo Friday to explore the costs and consequences of Ohio's prison sentences and to discuss alternatives.

They took part in an annual law symposium sponsored by the University of Toledo Law Review.

"Somehow, some way we have to get a better way of dealing with the problem of crime," said Judge James Carr, Northern District of Ohio.

The symposium comes as the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections' budget continues to shrink. The department's 2011 budget is $1.77 billion, and ODRC Chief Counsel Greg Trout says the department expects that number will be cut by 10% for 2012.

"We all know the state's facing a financial crisis and I think the symposium actually can contribute toward a solution," said Daniel Steinbrook, the University of Toledo College of Law Interim Dean.

Alternatives to prison include diversion and treatment programs, as well as services to help rehabilitate criminals in ways prison can't.

Participants also said another factor in adjusting the prison system is determining who gets sent to prison in the first place.

"We particularly should be worried, as I am, that when we incarcerate the wrong people it's making us less safe," said Douglas Berman, a law professor with The Ohio State University.

"Certain offenders who have low risk factors will actually get worse if you put them in prison," Trout said.

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