LIMA — With a long-term goal of assembling an expanded and more easily searchable database of criminal convictions in the state of Ohio, Allen County is serving as a pilot site for a statewide project spearheaded by the Ohio Supreme Court.
In the autumn of 2020, the Ohio Sentencing Commission and the Ohio Supreme Court began a project called the Ohio Sentencing Data Platform in conjunction with the School of Information Technology at the University of Cincinnati.
The purpose of the project is to address concerns from the 1999 Ohio Supreme Court racial fairness commission and create a statewide database to gather concrete information about the fairness and proportionality of criminal sentences in Ohio.
Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey L. Reed volunteered his court to help develop and launch the enhanced data platform. The groundwork for the program was laid at an initial meeting between Reed and his staff and officials from the University of Cincinnati last December.
On Friday Hazem Said, a U.C. professor and director of the university’s School of Information Technology, traveled to Lima to speak with Reed, court staff and other people whose input will be crucial to the program’s success.
“Judge Reed has offered his expertise to help develop this program, but we need your help, too,” Said told the staff. “Please let us know how to improve this process.”
The expansion of data to be collected and fed into the program will allow for a more in-depth analysis of sentencing data based on a variety of factors. In addition to race and gender, the program will collect additional data ranging from prior convictions of defendants and any past parole or probation violations and sentencing trends of individual judges.
“The Ohio Sentencing Data Platform will give us the ability to tell the comprehensive story and illustrate the deep intricacies of felony sentencing,” Reed said. “It will move us toward a data-informed environment that allows for thorough understanding and analysis of the criminal justice system by its own actors and those making policy decisions while increasing transparency to the public.”
It is the hope of the Ohio Sentencing Commission, the judge said, that information collected will lead to enhanced public safety, reduced recidivism and an equalized application of justice.
“It’s important to tell the story about the judge and the sentence in every case,” Said said.
The commission received a 2021 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant to further the project.