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Jail cell with the door close

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Members of the Midwest Culture Lab and the Ohio Student Association, are using the power of video to galvanize Ohio voters towards an important issue on this year’s midterm ballot. Their new video “Imagine A World Without Cages” puts Black and brown bodies in the forefront as central voices in the effort to defelonize drug possession.

Issue 1, also known as the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment, would change the state’s constitution to reduce drug penalties to include rehabilitation treatment and send fewer people to jail. It would also allow for inmates (except those convicted of murder, rape, or child molestation) to reduce their sentences by enrolling in prison rehabilitation programs.

The narrative surrounding young voters says that they’re disenchanted and disconnected, but the Midwest Culture Lab, a collective of young Ohioans with a vested interest in re-shaping the political power of the state, seeks to dismantle that narrative. Black and brown people are continuously left out of the voting interests in Ohio and the collective, along with local grassroots organization, the Ohio Student Association, wants to disseminate change and upward mobility for the disenfranchised.

Issue 1 was formed by the Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign, also known as Yes on 1. Prominent supporters include, singer John Legend (who is from Ohio), writer Shaun King, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (partly owned by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg), and the Open Society Policy Center (founded by billionaire George Soros).

Supporters of Issue 1 believe it will drastically change the makeup of the way drug offenders are prosecuted and rehabilitated. They also argue Issue 1 will save the state millions of dollars a year to invest in treatment programs for offenders, instead of sending them to jail.

However, critics of Issue 1 make the unsubstantiated claim that it will open the state to more drug dealers and that reducing felonies to misdemeanors for drug offenders will make it harder for them to go through with rehabilitation treatment.

Needless to say, the measure has proved to be partisan across political lines in Ohio. However, similar measures already exist in five other states including California, Connecticut, Utah, Alaska, and Oklahoma.

You can read more on Issue 1 here.

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