Issue 1: John Legend lends support to criminal justice reform measure

Credit: Jay LaPrete

Credit: Jay LaPrete

Springfield native and Grammy award winning artist John Legend is lending his support to State Issue 1, a Nov. 6 ballot measure that would reduce criminal sentences for some non-violent drug offenses.

Ohio voters this fall will decide Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that is being bankrolled by billionaires including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Nicholas and Susan Pritzker of San Francisco and George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce announced today is opposing State Issue 1. Also in opposition are the Ohio Judicial Conference and Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

READ MORE: What is State IssuWhat is State Issue 1 on the Ohio ballot?

Issue 1 would:

— Convert felony 4 and felony 5 drug possession and drug use crimes to misdemeanors with no jail time for first and second offenses committed within a 24-month period;

— Keep drug trafficking crimes as felonies;

— Prohibit judges from sending people to prison if they violate probation with something other than a new crime, such as missing an appointment;

— Cut prison time for offenders who complete rehabilitation programs, except those convicted of murder, rape or child molestation;

— Put money saved by fewer people going to prison into drug treatment and crime victim programs;

— Allow people convicted of certain drug crimes to petition the court for re-sentencing or release or to have the charge changed.

A summary and full text of the issue is available here.

Legend voices a new ad for the Yes on Issue 1 campaign. In it he says:

“The U.S. is the most incarcerated country in the world and Ohio has the fifth largest U.S. prison population. Crowded prisons waste taxpayer dollars and take money from community investments.

“Today, millions of young people and families have been impacted by mass incarceration, with not enough economic opportunities. Almost half of Ohio’s prison population have nonviolent drug offenses or probation violations. Meanwhile, families and neighbors can’t find help, like drug treatment and trauma recovery.

“This November you have a chance to take action for our communities, instead of waiting for politicians. Issue 1 reduces imprisonment for nonviolent low-level drug offenses, frees up money for drug treatment and crime victims - and gives people a second chance.”

RELATED: Governor's debate: What the candidates said about the opioid crisis

The ballot issue has been a point of contention between the main candidates running to be Ohio’s governor, Democrat Richard Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine.

At their first debate DeWine argued the measure would allow drug dealers caught with deadly amounts of fentanyl to face no penalties and would cause Ohio to become a safe haven for drug traffickers.

“Richard Cordray would put a star on Ohio and every drug dealer … would come here,” DeWine said.

Cordray called that claim misleading because the measure would keep drug trafficking crimes as felonies with the same jail sentencing guidelines that are currently in place.

“Drug traffickers will meet harsh penalties,” Cordray said. “There will be no difference for fentanyl.”

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