Judge Lucci answers citizens’ questions

LFC Comments by Brian Massie – Concord Resident

Currently, there is a great deal of discussion regarding the replacement of the Lake County jail. The project would be the most expensive facility ever constructed in Lake County. Cost estimate is in the range of $70 – $100 million.

Several concerned Lake County citizens contacted Judge Eugene A. Lucci, and he was gracious in taking the time to answer their questions.

LFC was originally supposed to be in the meeting, but was helping solve a problem for another Lake County resident and could not attend. We thank Judge Lucci for being available to the citizens.

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We asked Judge Lucci the following questions. His answers are in purple.

  1. Over the course of the last twenty years, how have the courts and laws changed, regarding misdemeanors now being charged as felonies, i.e. protesting critical infrastructure is now a felony, not a misdemeanor. 

A.    Our research provided the following statistics showing the change in misdemeanors and felonies.    

Two pieces of data is still needed:

  • Data show that at booking, the majority, about 60-70% are booked as a felony. Yet after sentencing, it’s only about 40%. Why the reduction and what does this tell us about the jail population?
  • A better way to group inmates: “Crimes against persons” and “Crimes not against persons.” How many are awaiting a hearing or trial and can’t pay bail and how many with mental health and addiction issues?
20191993
Misdemeanors average per day232137
Felony average per day131212

B.       How has the ratio of violent vs nonviolent offenses changed over time in Lake County?

In 1990, there were eight levels of felony charges. All went to prison. Then there was a push for more local incarceration, especially for low level felonies (breaking and entering, grand theft auto, etc.) Especially after 1997.

Then came mandatory sentencing. For example OVI: the blood alcohol concentration maximum was .15, then .12, then .10, then .08. I think he said the first time it’s not a felony. Then each time they violate they get additional days in jail: 3 days, 10 days, 30 days, 30 months, 36 months plus additional years.

From the web: “Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison [TCAP]. The TCAP program was created by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitations and Corrections as part of the ODRC budget and it was designed with the aim of reducing prison bed use and saving money.” Now Felony 4 and 5 goes to the local jail. Lake County just missed additional funding. He stated people can violate probation 4-5 times before they are sent to jail. He’s not a fan of TCAP, as it doesn’t provide enough judicial discretion and hasn’t decreased the OH prison population.

2. What current bail reforms are being enacted now? How is this affecting the Lake County jail population? Is this consistent across all the Lake County courts?

Most bail is set by the municipal courts: Mentor, (Mentor on the Lake has its own Prosecutor), Painesville, and Willoughby. Lake County courts only arraign and set bail about 40 out of 1200 times. Judge Lucci (and I think the other LC judges) mainly set bail on the person’s Own Recognizance OR or Personal Recognizance PR. If the defendant doesn’t show up, they get 18 months in jail. Plus, they can remain employed. It helps with their family, job, debts, mortgages, etc.

The defendant has to pay (or Lucci wants them to pay?) for their own electronic monitoring, $13/day.

There are three ways a judge sets bail:

·         Judge decides Own Recognizance

·         The Judge and Prosecutor decide on the bail

·         The Prosecutor and Defense Attorney agree on the bail

(Need data from each municipal court, to determine the number/percent of each type of bail they set, for the last several years.)

3. What Ohio Revised Code bail reforms are being contemplated now by the State legislature? How will this affect the Lake County jail population?

There will be more discretion for the municipal courts.

4. How are Mental Health and Addiction cases handled? Is there room to divert some of these cases to treatment, counseling and education facilities? On average, about how many cases per year would quality?

2019 Corrections Report: “While the rates of SMI [Serious Mental Illness] in the inmate population have almost tripled, the number of hospital beds available to treat individuals with SMI have significantly declined. In the 1950s, there was one psychiatric bed for every 300 Americans. Now, the ratio is more aligned with one psychiatric bed for every 3,000 citizens. And the beds that are available are largely filled by patients who are under criminal court orders, not civil commitments. (By: Amber H. Simpler, Ph.D., ABPP, Chief Psychologist, NaphCare)”

He stated 75-80% of defendants are substance addicted.

If a person doesn’t have a long history, he recommends treatment outside the jail, such as Signature Health, Team Challenge, Lake Geauga, etc. Usually he sentences them to “time served.”

First, treat in outside facility, free to the defendant

Second, a minimum security facility, like NEOCAP

Third, treatment in the jail.

He stated there are an insufficient number of outside treatment facilities.

Mental illness is a big problem. The court has a full-time psychologist. He sees people with mental illness cycle in and out of the court system. This population needs a special section in the jail, as they can’t hand out meds to people in the regular part of the jail.

5. If there was a minimum security facility for men, would you use it? Would other judges in Lake County divert inmates to this type of facility?

He believes there should be a minimum security/work release program for men. Currently, it is run out of the jail. The number is consistent over the years, about 18-20 men. There is a minimum security facility for women, called NEOCAP at the Base Nemeth facility, in Painesville. Inmates pay for their stay, up to 95%. It’s 10% of their income.

(Dan Troy said most people don’t have any money, and therefore, the facility doesn’t generate much money.)

6. What does he think about the creations of a parallel restorative justice system that could be used alongside the criminal justice system as a way to divert individuals from being housed in the jail.

He’s not a fan of restorative justice, unless it’s completely voluntary (which it is.) He didn’t really want to hear or understand it.

(“Restorative justice repairs the harm caused by crime. When victims, offenders and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results can be transformational. It emphasizes accountability, making amends, and – if they are interested – facilitated meetings between victims, offenders, and other persons.” http://restorativejustice.org/ )

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[LFC input: We will write a separate article expressing our opinion on “restorative justice”.]

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7. What about programs that help with re-entry into society?

When a person gets out of jail, they call Project Hope that day, to try to get a bed. It’s usually full and many times the person is homeless. He agreed it wasn’t a good system. Whereas with NEOCAP, women in Painesville and men in Warren, are in for 4-6 months and toward the end of their stay, they learn job interviewing skills and line up housing. They also have traditional check-ins with someone.

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Categories: Lake, Local News, Ohio Counties, Uncategorized

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