COLUMBUS — State officials said Ohio’s prison population is expected to keep rising, despite recent legislative efforts to tamp it down.
Ohio’s prisons house 50,639 people, and the latest two-year state budget allocated $3.14 billion to run the system.
The latest projections say the inmate population in 27 prisons will hit 52,000 in two years, and 53,484 in five years, The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday.
The state’s prisons already are housing 30 percent more prisoners than they were designed to hold.
Each prisoner in the system costs Ohio taxpayers $22,836 per year. One of every 175 adult Ohioans is housed, fed and receives medical care at taxpayer expense in a state prison.
The population has continued to rise despite reforms in recent years such as early-release provisions and enhanced community programs.
Prisons director Gary Mohr said he’s optimistic the state can get prison population growth under control.
“I’m getting a lot of people saying, ‘When are you going to build another prison?’” Mohr said. “I’m a believer in people instead of bricks and mortar. I’m not going to build another prison,” mostly because of the enormous cost involved.
The series of reforms that began with the 2011 legislation got traction in Ohio’s six largest counties, which helped reduce the prison population by about 675. However, the number of inmates being sent to prison from the remaining 82 counties increased, helping push up the population by more than 11 percent from 2003 to 2013.
According to a report by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, a legislative corrections watchdog, the contributing reasons why the prison population has gone up include longer sentences for higher-level felonies, dramatically fewer prison releases, legislation increasing penalties for specific crimes and adverse court decisions.