We attended a budget meeting with the Lake County Commissioners, the Finance Director, County Administrator and the movers and shakers of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas. We must plead guilty to not knowing much about this court so we did some research. Here is a brief overview:
The Court was created by the Ohio Constitution and its duties are outlined in Article IV, Section 4. Every Ohio county (88 for those into numbers) has a Court of Common Pleas and it is divided into the following divisions: (1) general, (2) domestic relations, (3) juvenile, (4) probate.
(1) General – handles all criminal felony cases, and civil cases for more than $15,000, real estate title issues, except eviction notices.
(2) Domestic relations – handles divorces, annulment, separations, spousal support, parental rights, and children
(3) Juvenile – handles minors under 18 charged with serious crimes, unruly, dependent and neglected children. It also rules over paternity cases, child abuse, child support, contributing to delinquency of minors, and truancy issues.
(4) Probate – handles marriage licenses, adoptions, mental competency, eminent domain issues, and can officiate a marriage (for a fee).
The voters elect the judges to six year terms, and to be qualified a judge must be an attorney with at least six years of experience in the practice of law.
Now that we are all “up to speed” on the Court of Common Pleas, let talk about their problems. Their major issue is that they are having significant problems hiring and retaining probation officers. Why, you may ask? Very simple – the pay scale for probation officers sucks!!!
Here is Mr. Craig A. Berry’s, Chief Probation Officer, recap of the problem: courtofcommonpleasprobationofficers
Here is the job description for a probation officer: (leaping tall buildings in a single bound is helpful, but not required)
Here is a comparison of probation officer salaries in other counties:
The workload for the probation officers is not getting easier. On the contrary, with their trained staff moving to other counties or departments for more money, it puts a significant burden on the remaining loyal officers. Here are some statistics for your to review: probationstatistics
One last item for your review, here is their budget for 2019: probationdept.2019budget
Did you know that the basic mission of the Adult probation is to change the behavior of the individual placed on probation?
There is a tendency to now offer probation rather than incarceration because it costs $66 – $68 per day to house an inmate.
The Lake County probation department has become a training ground for other agencies and counties. Annually, they receive a $600,000 grant from the State of Ohio, and there is a chance of losing funding if they cannot meet certain standards established by the State. Those standards are in jeopardy because of the “revolving door” in personnel hires.
Some random facts for you to consider as citizens:
Another fact we learned was that the State of Ohio, in an attempt to reduce the prison population to save costs, are advocating for even F4 and F5 offenders (really high risk people) to be placed on probation. YIKES!
Did you know that the Municipal Courts are money makers by their ability to assess fines, and court costs, but the Common Pleas cannot make money.
There are currently ~900 people under the supervision of the Probation Department.
Cuyahoga County has 20% of the felony cases in the ENTIRE State of Ohio!!!!
We asked Mr. Berry how many of the cases they handle are drug related, and we were told that 70% – 75% of the cases are drug related. It begs the question, why aren’t local elected officials, drug rehab non-profits, the ADAMHS Board, school superintendents, and the League of Women Voters not advocating for any and all measures to eliminate or severely reduce the SUPPLY OF DRUGS INTO OUR COMMUNITY???? We will be addressing that issue very soon.
We will end on a positive note. Mr. Berry indicated that we are not experience the “big drug busts” in Lake County for a very good reason. It is the position of the Lake County Prosecutor’s office that if you get busted for trafficking, or selling drugs in Lake County you are going to jail. The “street” knows this, and they stay out of Lake County. Hence, Euclid has become a hub of drug activity.
This hard-line, no nonsense approach by our Prosecutor, Mr. Charles Coulson, is to be commended. .