Summit County, Ohio: Every Thursday afternoon a small group of people gather in the chambers of Judge Tammy O’Brien for Re-Entry Court. The people attending this meeting include counselors, lawyers, an Adult Probation Officer, and Judge O’Brien. The group holds team meetings with the goal of helping Judge O’Brien’s Re-Entry Court participants get on the path to a better life. They talk about what’s been happening in the participants’ lives over the last two weeks, covering a range of topics including housing, treatment, employment, and financial situations. After each meeting, Judge O’Brien holds a Re-Entry Court session, speaking with each participant about their progress or, in some instances, mistakes made since the last court session. Rewards and sanctions serve to motivate participants to stay on the right path week after week.
“The goals of the program are pretty straightforward; remain law-abiding, sober, and pursue work or education. In Re-Entry Court, we come to know the challenges people face with regard to employment, housing, treatment and their physical and mental health.” commented Judge O’Brien. “Our mission is to improve safety and quality of life by enabling individuals returning from incarceration to be self-sufficient, crime-free, productive citizens and neighbors,” stated Judge O’Brien.
Re-certification by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Specialized Dockets is essential to continuing Judge O’Brien’s work in helping put individuals coming out of prison on the path to a better life. Judge O’Brien obtained that re-certification on December 22, 2016.
Judge O’Brien commented, “I am excited to continue my involvement in the Re-Entry Court Program, which has been shown to reduce recidivism and assist its participants with successful reintegration into our community.”
In order to receive re-certification, Judge O’Brien’s Re-Entry Court had to submit an application, undergo a site visit, and provide specific program materials in response to certification standards that went in to effect in January 2014.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor congratulated the Re-Entry Court and Judge O’Brien for receiving re-certification.
“Specialized dockets divert offenders toward criminal justice initiatives that employ tools and tailored services to treat and rehabilitate the offender so they can become productive members of society,” said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. “Studies have shown this approach works by reducing recidivism while saving tax dollars.”
Specialized dockets are courts that are dedicated to specific types of offenses or offenders and use a combination of different techniques for holding offenders accountable while also addressing the underlying causes of their behavior. There are more than 210 specialized dockets in Ohio courts that deal with issues such as:
- Drugs and Alcohol
- Mental Health
- Domestic Violence
- Human Trafficking
The standards provide a minimum level of uniform practices for specialized dockets throughout Ohio, and allow local courts to innovate and tailor to meet their community’s needs and resources.
The certification requirements include establishing eligibility requirements, evaluating effectiveness of the specialized docket, and assembling a treatment team for implementing daily operations of the specialized docket. The team can include licensed treatment providers, law enforcement, court personnel, and is headed by the specialized docket judge.
The Commission on Specialized Dockets has 22 members who advise the Supreme Court and its staff regarding the promotion of statewide rules and uniform standards concerning specialized dockets in Ohio courts; the development and delivery of specialized docket services to Ohio courts; and the creation of training programs for judges and court personnel. The commission makes all decisions regarding final certification and re-certification.