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Sentencing data is a ‘swamp’ but fix is coming, justice says

Laura A. Bischoff Columbus Dispatch USA TODAY NETWORK A coalition of judges and computer experts on Monday championed a court data collection project that they say will lead to more transparency and fairness in felony cases across Ohio.

The Ohio Sentencing Data Platform is being tried out by 34 judges in 15% of Ohio’s 88 counties.

The early reviews are positive.

'I feel like a pioneer blazing through a forest,' said Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed, who is among judges now trying out a new criminal sentencing data tool.

'This is an opportunity to make me a better judge,' said Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew Ballard, another jurist using the tool.

Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Jaiza Page said after using the tool for several weeks, she found she is thinking through all the applicable factors when it comes to sentencing.

The idea is simple:

Use the same computerized form across all Ohio courts to enter the same sentencing info for felony cases. The goal is to be able see how similar cases compare county to county, court to court.

O’Connor described the current information collection system 'a swamp.'

Students and faculty at University of Cincinnati are developing the technology needed for court systems to talk to one another.

The Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission found it’s nearly impossible to answer basic questions such as how many people were sentenced for a particular crime this year, how many were found not guilty or how many took plea bargains.

Generally, similar crimes committed by similarly situated defendants should receive similar sentences. But there is no way of knowing if that’s happening without data.

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