AP Legal Affairs Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s prison chief has recommended the release of five inmates who have served 80 percent of their time. The recommendations, if approved, would mark the first use of a 2011 law meant to help reduce the state’s inmate population and save the state money.
Director Gary Mohr of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction cited several reasons, including good behavior, for his recommendations in letters to judges, who have the final say. He also considered information from prison employees who are go-betweens with the prisons, the courts and the inmates.
The five inmates — two women and three men — are serving time mostly for low-level felonies, although one was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide.
Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said the 80 percent release option encourages inmates to act responsibly in prison “and is significant in our effort to better communicate with courts and assist the eligible, suitable offenders in having a successful transition back into our communities.”
The 2011 law aims to save the state millions of dollars by shrinking the number of inmates and reducing the number of offenders who might return to prison as repeat offenders. By several measures, the law and other efforts are working.
Ohio’s prison population remains under 50,000 inmates, a level not seen since 2007. Also, the state reported on Feb.22 that the number of inmates returning to Ohio prisons upon release has hit a new low, a trend officials attribute to a focus on keeping inmates in the community and the involvement of groups that work with inmates before their release.
Other factors Mohr considered in making his recommendations included little or no rule-breaking during incarceration; a history of participating in prison programs; and development of a plan for dealing with the release.
Inmate Mary Clinkscales of Summit County, sentenced to a seven-year prison term in 2007 for possession of drugs, is a prime candidate for release because of her activities in prison, according to a Feb. 15 letter written by a go-between, called a justice reinvestment officer.
Clinkscales had just one rule infraction while imprisoned — wearing shorts that were not part of her state-issued clothing — said Suzanne Brooks, the agency’s Cleveland-area justice reinvestment officer.
Clinkscales has attended literacy, anger management and family values skills classes, worked on community service projects making hats and scarves and is not a gang member, Brooks said.
All these factors, plus no previous prison sentence, make her a suitable candidate for release, Brooks said.
Other inmates recommended for release were:
— Rodney Kent of Scioto County, sentenced to a five-year prison term in 2009 for illegal possession of chemicals.
— Mikki Vance of Summit County, sentenced to a three-year prison term in 2011 for aggravated vehicular homicide.
— Marlon Smith of Franklin County, sentenced to a term of five and a half years in 2008 for possession of cocaine and failure to appear.
— Travis Mabry of Auglaize County, sentenced to a two-year prison term in 2011 for tampering with evidence. After the judge received Mohr’s request on Mabry, the inmate was granted release through another judicial release program on Friday.