What crime victims think about criminal justice reform

Policy wonks and policymakers have a lot of opinions on criminal justice reform. And as Ohio pursues changes to its criminal code, both should listen to an important group of stakeholders not often heard: the victims of crime.

Intuitively, one might think that crime victims would want courts to lock up perpetrators and throw away the keys. In the minds of many, incarceration deters criminals from reoffending. However, a new study flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

A new, first-of-its-kind national survey by the Alliance for Safety and Justice unveiled surprising results regarding the views of crime victims on incarceration.

For example, 61 percent of crime victims prefer shorter prison sentences and want policymakers to focus on shifting resources away from incarceration toward prevention programs and rehabilitation.

Indeed, criminals with a history of addiction do not get sufficient rehabilitation services while incarcerated, making them more likely to recidivate. Focusing on rehabilitation and prevention programs will increase the safety of neighborhoods and reduce recidivism rates.

Perhaps more surprising, those who have fallen victim to a crime are four times more likely to be victims again at some point in their lives. That means those who are most likely to be crime victims would prefer society treat the underlying problem rather than lock people up and forget about them.

Victims know that offenders will one day reenter their communities and, without treatment and rehabilitation, the problems they bring won’t go away. In fact, according to the Alliance’s survey, 52 percent of victims of violent crimes believe prison makes offenders more likely to commit crime.

Crime victims don’t want revenge—they want safer communities.

Ohioans recognize that criminal justice reform is necessary to promote safety in our communities. That is why the Ohio Justice Recodification Committee was established: to spearhead criminal justice reform. The committee will make its recommendations for changes to Ohio law this fall.

Until then, members—and, in fact, all Ohioans—should read the Alliance’s survey to see where crime victims stand on public safety issues. Just like criminal justice reforms’ effects, their opinions are encouragingly surprising.

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10 things the National Education Association supports that have nothing to do with education

The NEA doesn’t stand for Nuclear Education Association. And yet, supporting a nuclear freeze is one of many issues backed by the national union that has nothing to do with the betterment of teachers professionally. Its members should have the freedom to choose otherwise.

Some issues supported by the National Education Association (NEA) undoubtedly will receive different reactions from union members. Moreover, these issues often have little to nothing to do with education itself. Below are 10 resolutions passed by the NEA, the national affiliate for the Ohio Education Association, that should raise more than a few eyebrows:

  1. urging all nations to work toward disarmament (see page 84),
  2. urging participation by the United States in deliberations before the International Court of Justice, (see page 85),
  3. supporting the nuclear freeze (see page 85),
  4. opining on covert and counterintelligence operations (see page 85),
  5. promoting statehood for Washington, D.C. (see page 84),
  6. opposing efforts to legislate English as the official language (see page 95),
  7. supporting efforts to abate climate change (see page 86),
  8. supporting “reproductive freedom” (see page 88),
  9. supporting the mandated use of helmets for bicyclists and motorcyclists (see page 92), and
  10. urging that no current government employee should be displaced due to efforts that shift people off welfare and toward work (see page 92).

People can have reasonable disagreements about the above-mentioned list. And certainly there will be teacher union members that fall on both sides of those policies. But should all union members really be compelled to support their organization’s stance on those issues, even if they have a deeply felt objection?

That is what National Employee Freedom Week, taking place this August 14-20, is all about. Giving all union members a choice about whether or not to support those causes through their own money irrespective of their own views—on nuclear policy or any other hot-button issue.

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What National Employee Freedom Week means for Ohio workers

Should people be forced, against their will, to reach into their own pockets and give money to a cause with which they disagree? This is a question that thousands of union members in Ohio are confronted with every year. And their ability to make this decision is severely restricted.

That is why The Buckeye Institute is again partnering with the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and more than 100 other groups in 42 states to raise awareness for National Employee Freedom Week, which runs August 14-20.

The goal of National Employee Freedom Week is to inform union members of their legal rights concerning membership as well as how their member funds are being used for purposes other than collective bargaining.

Of course, many union members are pleased with their representation, and that’s fine. However, there are also many who feel compelled to pay dues to an organization that spends their hard-earned dollars on issues with no connection to their union’s stated purpose of collectively bargaining on behalf of its members.

In Ohio, union members can block their money from being used for political activities by becoming what is referred to as an “agency fee payer.” This means that they are paying only for the direct representation offered by the union in collective bargaining. To learn more about this option, click here. One can also become a “religious or conscientious objector” where the dues are deducted but made payable to a charity.

Despite these options, there is only one way that current and prospective union members can assure themselves of complete employee freedom, and this is for Ohio to become a right-to-work state.

The Buckeye Institute has published numerous reports showcasing the economic benefits Ohio can reap from becoming a right-to-work state, including our 2012 report, Ohio Right-to-Work: How the Economic Freedom of Workers Enhances Prosperity.

However, this issue is about more than economics: No one should be forced to pay to join an association against their free will. This is the message of National Employee Freedom Week, and it is a message The Buckeye Institute has spoken in the past and will continue to give a voice to in the future.

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Occupational licensing restrictions getting federal attention

Cumbersome barriers and bureaucracy associated with occupational licensing are now being scrutinized at the federal level.

The recent introduction of The Alternatives to Licensing that Lower Obstacles to Work (ALLOW Act) by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (UT) would relieve the barriers many low-income Americans face when trying to secure a job. The measure starts small—affecting just military spouses, District of Columbia workers, and tour guides in certain national parks—but would start a much-needed conversation in Congress and state legislatures about licensing requirements in many professions.

Legal obstacles to employment hinder one of the most important qualities of the American economic system—the equality of opportunity. Alarmingly, the number of Americans participating in the labor force is nearing its lowest point since 1977. Because licensing requirements can deter people from pursuing a career or moving forward in their job, states are looking to reform such laws.

Ohio has been ahead of the curve in addressing occupational licensing. The Buckeye Institute’s Tom Lampman recognized the growing burden of occupational licensing laws well before the introduction of Sen. Lee’s proposal.

Sen. Lee’s measure enables Congress to exercise its jurisdiction in the District and on military bases to design several models for licensing reform. State governments can follow these models immediately.

The ALLOW Act also limits the creation of occupational license requirements in Washington, D.C. and promotes less restrictive requirements, like public and private certification. Certifications are favorable because they permit people to demonstrate their qualifications without spending excessive amounts of money on education and experience to qualify for a specific license.

In addition, the ALLOW Act creates a new office of supervision in Washington, D.C. for licensed occupations. That office will ensure minimal and reasonable occupational standards among the District’s licensing boards, which sometimes set ambiguous standards. That problem can be remedied with an office that promotes reasonable occupational benchmarks.

Workforce mobility and labor market efficiency will increase as a result of those changes. Occupational license entry requirements will be more unified since individuals will be certified for specific credentials. Public certification issued in any state on military bases for military spouses will also unify requirements.

Buckeye’s Lampman, too, favored voluntary certification because it “keeps the market open and competitive. Workers can choose whether to invest in the certification process and customers can choose whether certified workers are worth a higher price.”

License requirements vary from state to state, and workers are negatively affected by those differing requirements. The uniformity created in Sen. Lee’s proposal enables more workers to enter the economy and thus encourages greater competition, which leads to lower prices, new products, and more options for customers.

Reconsidering the approach to occupational licensing laws will permit the restoration of economic opportunity, and it will ALLOW – pun intended – more people to earn a living without having to conquer unnecessary obstacles to be considered “qualified” for an occupation.

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Taxpayers wronged by Wright State

The Buckeye Institute believes in accountable government. That includes spending tax dollars on their specified purpose. Along those lines, recent actions – or inactions for that matter – by Wright State are wrong.

As described in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Wright State received $220,000 from state taxpayers to prepare security for the first presidential debate later this fall. Last month, however, Wright State canceled the event for a number of reasons, including needed security upgrades and their accompanied cost.

Of course, there is nothing wrong about that decision if university officials believed they really could not afford to host the debate. In fact, it was a good decision not to ask taxpayers for more money as a bailout.

So then Wright State returned the $220,000 to the state, right? Wrong.

Despite the university saying the money was spent on infrastructure that will benefit students, the money was earmarked specifically for the presidential debate, which is no longer taking place. Therefore, it makes little sense for them to hold on to the money for something they did not do.

Just consider if a contractor was paid to do a job that he or she subsequently backed out of for any number of reasons. Assuming the two parties didn’t build in a specific contractual arrangement for the contractor to keep the money, he or she would have to give it back. The same basic principle should apply to Wright State.

If Wright State needs money for other, non-debate expenses, it can ask for it and justify it on the merits of what those other expenses might be. (Important note: The Buckeye Institute is not a fan of earmarks in general. For more on this issue, see our pork report from earlier this year.)

But even if the state of Ohio isn’t asking for the money back, the university should return it anyway. To respect taxpayers and normal contractual agreements, that would be the Wright thing to do.

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Let customers choose their energy provider, not government

When renewable energy is fully ready for primetime, it should not be artificially kept off the electrical grid just to prop up older technology. However, neither should it be forced on the grid to displace more reliable, cost-effective technology.

The problems with government intervention in support of favored energy resources are becoming obvious in Europe, as documented recently by the The New York Times:

Germany, Europe’s champion for renewable energy, seems to be having second thoughts about its ambitious push to ramp up its use of renewable fuels for power generation.

Hoping to slow the burst of new renewable energy on its grid, the country eliminated an open-ended subsidy for solar and wind power and put a ceiling on additional renewable capacity.

Germany may also drop a timetable to end coal-fired generation, which still accounts for over 40 percent of its electricity, according to a report leaked from the country’s environment ministry. Instead, the government will pay billions to keep coal generators in reserve, to provide emergency power at times when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

Renewables have hit a snag beyond Germany, too. Renewable sources are producing temporary power gluts from Australia to California, driving out other energy sources that are still necessary to maintain a stable supply of power.

Ohio has a similar renewable energy standard. In light of such reports from Europe and even the United States, Ohio’s mandate deserves serious scrutiny. For more on this issue check out our own Joe Nichols’ report and my testimony to Ohio’s Energy Mandates Study Committee last year.

Of course, renewable energy does have a future in Ohio’s energy mix. If and when storage becomes cost effective, renewables may even fully displace fossil fuels and nuclear power. But that day is not today.

The two main sources of renewable energy, wind and solar, are intermittent. That is, they don’t always produce electricity. Further, excess energy produced at non-peak demand can’t be stored cost effectively for use at a time when demand is most needed. In turn, the storage of renewables displaces resources that provide more stable energy, such as coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

This means consumers take it on the chin twice: the first time with the cost of subsidies to renewables and the second for subsidizing other sources to stay online.

Ohio’s electrical grid should be reserved first and foremost for energy resources that provide the most reliable, cost-effective service to consumers. If that’s coal today and wind tomorrow, fine. But our free economic environment should decide—not government.

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Buckeye to U.S. Supreme Court: Why are Europe’s skies freer than America’s skies?

COLUMBUS — Pilots have more freedom to “Uber up in the air” in Europe than they do in America because of a 2015 order by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Today, The Buckeye Institute’s Legal Center urged the Supreme Court of the United States to reverse the FAA’s backward interpretation of the law and unleash the potential of the sharing economy.

For decades, the FAA’s “Expense-Sharing Rule” allowed private airplane pilots to post their flight plans on bulletin boards, enabling passengers to join their flights by sharing fuel costs. When Flytenow, Inc. put that practice online, the FAA deemed it illegal, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld by deferring to the agency. Buckeye’s legal brief challenges that ruling.

“Being home to the Wright brothers, we’re proud to represent Ohio at the U.S. Supreme Court and bring American flight into the 21st century,” Robert Alt, president and CEO of The Buckeye Institute, said. “If Europeans can have ‘Uber up in the air’ so, too, should Americans benefit from such cost-sharing services.”

In Flytenow, Inc. v. Federal Aviation Administration, The Buckeye Institute’s brief argues that the FAA’s order is arbitrary, antiquated, and inconsistent with its longstanding “Expense-Sharing Rule” for non-commercial flights.

“Why should pilots be able to speak on index cards but not on the internet?” Alt asked. “The only place this kind of rule makes sense is in a federal agency.”

Flytenow, Inc. has discontinued its operations since the Court of Appeals’ ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to take the case after it reconvenes in October.

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