Court applies for ‘community alternatives to prison’ funds


By Anna Bolton - abolton@aimmediamidwest.com



XENIA — Greene County Common Pleas Court officials applied for state funding that would create local alternatives to prison sentences for low-level, non-violent offenders.

If awarded, the Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison (T-CAP) program — in which the State of Ohio would give about $873,000 in a two-year grant cycle to Greene County Adult Probation Department — would provide resources to effectively supervise and offer treatment services for these offenders locally.

The funding would prohibit a court from sentencing a non-violent Felony-5 offender to prison, unless the offender has a felony of violence or sex offense on their prior record, court documents show. Other exceptions would be in cases where the sentence is being imposed for another offense for which a prison term is required, and the sentence on the F-5 would run concurrently to the other prison sentence.

Court documents show statistics from 2016 indicate nearly 8,300 of the 20,000 individuals sentenced to prison were sent to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) to serve 1 year or less of a sentence. Of the 8,300, approximately 3,500 were sent to prison for F-5 offenses.

According to June 6 work session minutes, Court Administrator Mark Donatelli said 41 F-5 offenders were sent to the ODRC from Greene County last year.

“The state doesn’t want to build more prisons and they don’t want us to send non-violent offenders to prison. Let’s keep them here but let’s spend their money doing it,” Donatelli said.

Donatelli asked Greene County Commissioners June 13 to authorize their applying for the funds. All three commissioners voted to authorize the application. Donatelli said Sheriff Gene Fischer signed off on it as well.

Donatelli proposed the funding, if awarded, could be utilized for programs and personnel.

One proposal would create a bond liaison and pre-trial supervision probation officer position. This Adult Probation Department employee would do real-time daily risk assessments of the qualifying low-level offenders that are held pending trial. This might include daily reporting and purchasing electronic monitoring for house arrest or for detecting alcohol.

“So our goal is to utilize a full-time position to get people out of jail that don’t need to be there pending trial,” he explained.

Donatelli said the funds could also support the creation of a community service program in which offenders would help out in local areas of need.

“These people can pay a sentence to the community and this jurisdiction by performing public service,” he said.

A final proposal would add two additional supervision officers to “aggressively supervise” the offenders — working to get them into treatment programs, education programs and vocational training.

“We can do meaningful probation and rehabilitation work,” Donatelli said.

The grant period would be from July 2019 to June 2021.

By Anna Bolton

abolton@aimmediamidwest.com