Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Ohio Supreme Court and University of Cincinnati to Create First-of-its-Kind Criminal Sentencing Database

Posted By on Tue, Oct 5, 2021 at 10:19 AM

click to enlarge Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor on Oct. 4 - THE OHIO CHANNEL
  • The Ohio Channel
  • Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor on Oct. 4

The Ohio Supreme Court and the University of Cincinnati this week announced a joint project that will create a statewide database of criminal sentencings, a first-of-its-kind across the nation.

With an $800,000 allocation by the court, students and faculty at the university will begin collecting sentencings from common pleas judges in the state who opt into the program. So far, 34 of the 244 judges have done so, and more are signing up every week.

Rather than tracking decisions made by individual judges to single out their trends — data that is already collected and made available by courts like that in Cuyahoga — the database will compare sentences across the state by the broader demographics of those who are sentenced to identify inconsistencies.

“It will be even more fine-tuned,” Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said in a press conference this week. “African American men, with this kind of record, this level of education, this level of employment, who lives here, etc. You put all those variables in, and you get much a more accurate response... This is about the big picture and what is happening in Ohio in the big picture with sentencing."

Last year, as the court worked on a one-county pilot program with an eye on expanding statewide, O'Connor told the Columbus Dispatch the database would be an essential tool in working toward bias-free sentencing, one that would educate judges and rebuild the public's trust after a year of social justice protests.

“Our lack of knowledge about sentencing reverberates in the public as lack of confidence in you and me and our judiciary system. You, as a judge, are being forced to fly blind — and that’s not fair to you. ... It’s important that our judges sentence with consistency," she said. “For the public to be informed — and for truth to win out over rumor and fiction — they must be able to see equal justice for all and understand how it is measured. This database will give us a foundation for fairness and objectivity that will change how we do our jobs, and it will be a change for the better.”

Two recent cases in Cuyahoga County have put the issue of sentencing disparities once again in the forefront of criminal justice reform discussions this year, as reported in its series on a "white woman who stole $250,000 and received probation while a Black woman who stole $40,000 was sentenced to jail."

Video coverage of the court's joint announcement with the University of Cincinnati is below.

Tags: , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 17, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation