Athens Co. Sheriff Against Sentencing Law Change

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A law that lessens the sentences of fourth- and fifth- degree felons will go into effect Friday.

Ohio House Bill 86 will change felony sentencing laws to one year of community control for offenses that previously warranted up to 18 months of jail time and a $5,000 fine.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, fourth and fifth-degree felonies are most often theft, domestic crimes, possession and trafficking of illegal drugs.

Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly says that the new law will do little to deter people from committing fourth and fifth-degree felonies.

"The presumption of felony fours and fives is no longer there for prison time. They're clearly not going to prison," says Kelly.

Kelly says the bill was intended to save money on state prison costs, but he believes the new law will cost the Athens community more money.

"They'll be placing these people back in our communities, and they've mandated to do that, but yet they've mandated no money for us to have diversion programs or place them in our regional jail. The cost to society will be that we're going to have those people out and we're not going to be able to pay for putting people in jail anymore and the community's going to have to absorb the cost of putting these people in jail," says Kelly.

He says the new law will make the jobs of Athens law enforcement officials more difficult, but that they will continue to deal with crime in the same manner used prior to the law.