COLUMBUS—Today, State Reps. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Jeffrey A. Crossman (D-Parma) introduced legislation that would require human impact statements for future legislation that addresses the criminal justice system in Ohio. With this bill, any change to the criminal justice system, such as an increase in sentencing or criminal prohibition, would be required to undergo a thorough Legislative Service Commission (LSC) study to determine what areas of the population will be affected by the proposed changes to criminal justice laws.
In Ohio and across the country, African Americans and other minority groups are disproportionally overrepresented in the criminal justice process and in prison populations. Human impact statements are an important tool for criminal justice systems to better utilize data and evaluate potential disparities within proposed legislation before they are adopted. Many of our current policies unknowingly exacerbate the current disparities within our criminal justice system without the analysis of human impact. The statement must analyze whether the new or amended criminal prohibition, criminal penalty, or law, when implemented or enforced, would have a disparate impact on a racial or ethnic group, on an age group, or on a gender.
“Ohioans of color have long endured unequal education, unsafe work conditions, inadequate health care services, subpar housing, and an unjust criminal justice system due to policies that were rooted in the belief that people of color were not worthy of the American Dream. Unequal opportunity ends here as this legislation serves as a logical step in tackling the issue of examining the human impact of racial inequality in the state of Ohio,” said Rep. Howse.
“This is a commonsense initiative that would help legislators better understand the full impact of policy decisions related to our criminal justice system,” said Rep. Crossman. “It’s but one step in a series that must be done to address the dramatic racial disparities that obviously exist in our criminal justice system.”
Including human impact analyses for proposed policies will be a start towards addressing the disparities within Ohio’s criminal justice system. Connecticut, Oregon, and Iowa all have implemented similar legislation regarding human impact statements, and Ohio would be among the first in a growing trend of states that are adopting human impact statements.
The legislation now awaits a bill number and referral to a House committee.