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Programs can help inmates

Today, Ohio has more than 4,000 female inmates in its three correctional institutions that house women. That’s nearly 15 times as many female inmates as the state incarcerated four decades ago.

The cause of the increase, according to the Ohio Prisons Director Gary Mohr, is drug-related crimes — possession, trafficking, manufacturing or crimes attributed to drug abuse, such as burglary and theft.

In an effort to curb the number of women in Ohio’s prisons, a provision in the state budget now allows Mohr to move nonviolent, low-level felony drug offenders out of prison and into community programs or electronically monitored house arrest if they have less than a year remaining of their sentence. This will be the first time someone other than a judge has been authorized to shorten prison sentences.

According to Mohr, qualifying inmates will go through a demanding preparation program of eight to 10 hours a day for two weeks.

Although the program is for male and female inmates, women will get first priority.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the average cost to house an inmate per day is $62.57, but for female inmates, that figure is $4-$9 higher per day because of staffing patterns and increased health and mental-health services.

The program is expected to begin in March, and more than 2,000 male and female inmates are likely to be eligible this year.

It’s not enough to simply incarcerate drug offenders and hope upon his or her release they will live a law-abiding life.

This program could go a long way to ensure when inmates are released from prison, they have a support system in place to help them on the road to a new life away from crime and drugs.

If early release from prison means offenders have a chance to complete special programs to prepare them for reentry into society, the community at large should be all for it.