COLUMBUS – OHIO, Today, ten Ohio-based organizations collectively submitted public comment to the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission urging changes to plans for the creation and implementation of a long-awaited felony sentencing database.
The public comment focuses on two broad concerns. First, the organizations (listed at end) highlight the documents and data received by the Sentencing Commission from courts participating in the database will not be public record under the current proposal. Instead, the plan is for the Sentencing Commission and Ohio Supreme Court to have sole discretion what – if any – database information will be released via a public portal.
The groups’ second concern is not explicitly mentioned in the proposed changes to the Rules of Superintendence. It was included because it gets to the heart of whether the database will be of any significant or useful benefit to stakeholders, legislators, advocates, impacted people, news media, and others. That is, the database is being designed so data regarding individual judges, individual courts, and individual counties will not be reported or collected. Instead, it appears information available via the sentencing database will only identify and/or compare counties of a similar size.
“Current database plans are of little use to anyone hoping for a much more transparent and accessible criminal legal system in Ohio,” according to ACLU of Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels. “Ohioans deserve to know how the actions of individual judges and courts are impacting their families, communities, and state. What is under consideration falls short of what is badly needed for data collection and reporting.”
“Ohioans won’t see the benefits of a justice system that treats everyone fairly no matter the color of their skin, their gender or zip code until we have meaningful access to data from court records,” says Piet van Lier, senior researcher with Policy Matters Ohio. “Current plans are a small step in the right direction, but without changes we'll lose an opportunity to transform justice in Ohio.”
In alphabetical order, the ten organizations who collectively submitted public comment are:
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio
- Black Lives Matter Cleveland
- Common Cause Ohio
- Ensuring Parole for Incarcerated Citizens (EPIC)
- The Freedom BLOC (Black Led Organizing Collective)
- Heartbeat Movement, Inc.
- Ohio Fair Courts Alliance
- Ohio Families United for Political Action & Change (OFUPAC)
- Policy Matters Ohio
- River Valley Organizing
The letter can be read below.