For Immediate Release | November 27, 2019
Ohio father tells story of losing his son to overdose, highlighting negative impact of felony convictions on addiction recovery
COLUMBUS – The Alliance for Safety and Justice will launch a major statewide advertising campaign this weekend – together with The Buckeye Institute and Law Enforcement Action Partnership – in support of reforming how Ohio’s justice system responds to addiction and drug sentencing. The campaign will begin with a 60-second commercial during the Ohio State-Michigan and Cleveland Browns-Pittsburgh Steelers football games, detailing the story of a Seville, Ohio father who lost his son to an overdose after receiving a felony conviction for low-level, simple drug possession. In addition to running during this weekend’s football games, the multi-week campaign will also display the video in support of Senate Bill 3 to millions of Ohioans through digital online and mobile platforms.
The ad features Charles “Chip” Jenkins narrating the experience of his son, Alex, who struggled with addiction. Despite recovering and seeking to turn his life around, Alex was ultimately unable to overcome the barriers of his past felony conviction and fatally relapsed. Jenkins also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of the bill in May.
“Alex was sick, he wasn’t a dangerous person,” Jenkins says about his son in the ad. “That’s why we need Senate Bill 3, which reclassifies low-level drug possession…so Ohioans with addiction can get treatment, not felonies. We must stop this cycle and start treating addiction like a public health issue because no family should ever experience what we’ve been through.”
Senate Bill 3 changes how Ohio’s justice system responds to addiction and minor drug possession to an approach that is backed by evidence and has proven more effective in other states. It reclassifies low-level drug possession to a misdemeanor, so Ohioans can get treatment in communities and not have their recovery undermined by the immense barriers associated with a felony conviction. According to the latest data from the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, Ohio had the second highest overdose death rate of any state in the nation.
“Ohioans are suffering because our current laws continue an approach that is counterproductive and perpetuating a crisis,” said Shakyra Diaz, Ohio State Director of the Alliance for Safety and Justice. “Ohio leaders are appropriately uniting to advance solutions, like Senate Bill 3, to ensure we effectively respond to addiction with treatment and stop wasting public safety resources and harming communities across our state.”
Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute, stated: “Employment is one of our best indicators of addiction recovery, and by reclassifying low-level drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, Ohio can remove one of the largest impediments to gainful employment for a fragile population. It’s the right thing to do and economically beneficial.”
According to Ret. Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, “Significant barriers to employment, education, housing, and public benefits make those with felony convictions not only more likely to return to using drugs but also to turn to crime to support themselves. When the response to drug use only makes the effects of that use worse, we need to try something different. We need Senate Bill 3.”
Senate Bill 3 has broad, bipartisan support, including from Senate President Larry Obhof, lead sponsor, Sen. John Eklund, and senators Nathan Manning, Sean O’Brien and Cecil Thomas, among others. Current and former law enforcement officials have also announced support for Senate Bill 3, including Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan, former prosecutor Judge Larry A. Jones, Sr., and former attorney general Jim Petro.
Chief Tom Synan stated: “A felony conviction does not ensure sobriety, it ensures a more difficult recovery. It is time we stop punishing addiction and begin treating the person with addiction.”
The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. We partner with leaders to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education and advocacy. We also bring together diverse crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence.
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Contact Dennis Willard