BATAVIA, Ohio (June 14, 2017) – By focusing on treatment for low level felony offenders with opiate addiction, the Clermont County Common Pleas Court Adult Probation Department met goals set by a grant from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) to reduce the number of low-level felons from Clermont County sent to state prisons.
Because it met those goals, the Probation Department has just been awarded an incentive grant of $108,200. In addition, the department was pre-approved for funding of a second two-year cycle of the grant.
Two years ago, the Probation Department was awarded a Probation Improvement and Incentive Grant of $335,803 running from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2017, with three goals set by the ODRC, said Julie Frey, Director of Probation Services for the Common Pleas Court. The goals stemmed from the state’s attempts to reduce prison overcrowding. The State of Ohio’s prison system currently houses approximately 51,000 inmates but was constructed to hold about 38,000 people.
“State prisons are overcrowded,” Frey said. “Much of this is due to the opiate epidemic in Ohio and the drug-related crimes that come out of it. By placing offenders who present a lower risk of reoffending on community control – better known as probation — we can place them in a treatment program that addresses their addiction and addresses safety concerns for the public as well.
“The goal is to help offenders change their thinking and their behavior, and thereby reduce the likelihood they will reoffend. When this happens, we meet our main goals of keeping the community safe, saving tax dollars, and helping offenders become responsible citizens,” Frey said.
“It’s more expensive to incarcerate someone than to put them on community control where we can closely monitor their conduct,” Frey added. “With community control, a variety of sanctions are imposed, not just treatment. This local control allows us to be more proactive when monitoring any probationer. Such local control benefits the offender and in the end, the community as well.”
The Probation Department met all three goals set by the grant:
Frey stressed that the Probation Department makes recommendations to judges on whether an offender should be considered for community control based strictly on sentencing guidelines. “If we feel they are a danger to society, we will recommend incarceration,” she said.
Judge Richard Ferenc, Administrative Judge for Clermont County Common Pleas Court, said that, as the courts have been overwhelmed with drug-related cases, community control is a viable option in certain cases.
“It’s a difficult balance,” he said. “We want to maintain safety for our citizens. We can’t put all of these offenders in jail. We don’t have the space. We can’t put them all in prison. We don’t have the space. If they are low level, not repeat offenders, treatment is important.
“Medication-Assisted Treatment is now available, and that was not available even three years ago,” he said. “We’re seeing Vivitrol and other medications break the cycle of addiction. So far it seems to be working reasonably well.”