Darrel Rowland The Columbus Dispatch
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich rolled out a wide-ranging criminal justice plan today.
The former congressman and Cleveland mayor says it‘s targeted at “ending private for-profit prisons in Ohio, stopping the warehousing of non-violent offenders, reforming the bail system, attacking the opioid epidemic and drug addiction in general, improving training for law enforcement personnel, establishing better police-community relations, and taking serious legal action against any public officials guilty of abuses of power in the performance of their jobs.”
“The criminal justice system, in Ohio as well as nationally, has a shameful record of disproportionately targeting, prosecuting, jailing, and otherwise discriminating against the African American and Latino communities,” Kucinich said in prepared remarks. “Arrest, conviction, and incarcerations statistics are clear and incontrovertible evidence of that fact.”
Kucinich said laws are needed “that prohibit those with mental health issues that make them a danger to themselves or others from owning a gun. No one with weapons under disability charges,
a conviction of a violent felony, or a mental health issue presenting a danger should have access to weapons.”
He said his administration would support the right of local communities to enact laws about local gun bans. “For example, Cleveland attempted to ban assault weapons years ago and should have been supported, not opposed by the state.”
Kucinich wants to standardize probes of possible law enforcement misconduct.
“The conduct of each and every law enforcement official shall be subject to a transparent process of public review in the event of unnecessary aggression, brutality, or the possibility or suspicion of wrongful death,” he said.
Kucinich called for demilitarization of police: “No military equipment or ordnance used by the U.S. Department of Defense shall be used for purposes of law enforcement or crowd control anywhere in the state of Ohio.”
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Pledging to break up the “prison industrial complex,” Kucinich said as governor he would issue an executive order to bar sentences to for-profit prisons.
He also decried the fact that “Ohioans are spending millions of dollars a year to house low-level non-violent offenders, particularly those convicted of committing petty drug offenses such as the use of marijuana,” and promised a review to determine how many should have their sentences commuted.
As far as Ohio‘s opioid epidemic, Kucinich said, “Regardless of the nature of the addiction – opioids, opiates, heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamines, other controlled substances or alcohol – treatment and rehabilitation are absolutely essential, in hospitals and other appropriate medical facilities, not in jails and prisons.” And he said medical marijuana “can be a significant part of the solution to the drug epidemic.”
Kucinich also wants to legalize and tax recreational marijuana in Ohio “to provide the hundreds of millions of dollars in increased revenues that will help pay for expanded health and mental health programs.”
He also said, “We must reform our police departments; and establish a powerful community relations approach to law enforcement that de-emphasizes the use of extreme or deadly force and emphasizes training in de-escalation, community relations, and recognition of mental health issues.”
Kucinich also wants higher-paid police officers.
“Law enforcement personnel must not only be better training, they must also be better paid, given the serious, sometimes dangerous nature of their work. And, that training will be on-going, and it will include racial sensitivity training,” he said.
As governor, he said he would work with local police departments to ensure every officer is equipped with body and dash cameras and that data storage hardware/software is available to local police
agencies. And he threatens to withhold local government funding until the cameras are in place.
To encourage officers to live in communities they serve, Kucinich wants to refund their state tax obligation for living locally.
He wants to change Ohio‘s bail system “so that the only people who are incarcerated while awaiting trial are those who pose a legitimate flight risk or a public safety threat — not accused individuals who simply could not afford bail. Being poor or having limited financial resources should not be jailable offenses.”