Ohio ballot measure seeks to reform drug laws

Heath Bechler has been treating addicts both in and out of prison for 25 years. Incarceration, he said, often gets in the way of real recovery.

"Historically, we've seen that prison doesn't work," Bechler explained.

In order to stay clean and sober, he believes that addicts need some form of treatment.

"The threat of punishment is good for a lot of people in society, an overwhelming majority,” Bechler told Fox News's Douglas Kennedy, “but when it comes to addicts, they don't think like average people think."

Right now, Ohio prisons are 30 percent over capacity, and that's just one of the reasons Bechler is supporting a ballot measure that would make low-level drug possession here a misdemeanor rather than a felony in the state of Ohio.

Ohio Issue 1 would also prohibit sending people to prison for non-criminal parole violations and would set aside a large percentage of a projected $100 million in savings for addiction treatment. It's a proposal that's getting a lot of pushback.

Many in law enforcement in Ohio are opposed to the measure.

"Not only law enforcement, [but] the judiciary across the state," said Paul Pfeifer, a former state Supreme Court judge and the current executive director of the Ohio Judicial Conference. He called the proposal "devastating, reckless and dangerous."

Pfeifer said judges and prosecutors oppose question 1 because it provides too much carrot and not enough stick.

"It removes punishment completely,” Pfeifer said. “First two offenses, no jail no prison. You can't get an addict into treatment without the threat of punishment."

Bechler disagrees with the position that addicts can't get clean without punishment, or the threat of punishment.

"They can," he said, "and they do."

Bechler believes that prison, and the threat of prison, can actually make many addicts rebel from treatment.