One of Ohio’s top judges is leading an effort to collect sentencing data in a bid to offer more transparency and context to judges’ sentencing decisions.
Ohio courts do not collect or share criminal sentencing data. This means defense attorneys often have to manually compile spreadsheets of similar cases in order to argue for a certain sentence.
From the Columbus Dispatch:
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly is spearheading a project to collect criminal sentencing data in a uniform way across courts. And Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is backing it as well.
“I’ve become convinced that this isn’t just a good idea, it’s an absolute necessity to deal with the problem of disparate treatment and implicit bias that permeates our sentencing laws,” Donnelly said.
The sentencing laws adopted in 1996 offer no guardrails against disparate treatment, he said.
“It’s resulted in the perception, which I believe is true, that the public feels their sentencing outcomes in our courts have more to do with the proclivities of the judge you’re assigned to, rather than the rule of law, which requires proportionality and fairness and that similarly situated defendants are treated with similar sentences,” Donnelly said. “There is no tool or information available for the decision makers.”
The goal is to be able see how similar cases compare county to county, court to court.
It isn’t as simple as it sounds.
The courts operate with antiquated information technology systems. There isn’t a uniform way that courts collect information. Ohio has 723 elected judges across 88 counties – some of whom may be worried about what trends the data may show, Donnelly said.