Cleveland judges are sending far fewer people to prison than they did 10 years ago, marking one of Ohio’s largest demographic shifts in the corrections system, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In 2003, one in nearly four inmates sent to an Ohio prison came from Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County. Today, the figure is closer to one in six. The number of inmates sent to prison in fiscal year 2013 from Cleveland is down 38 percent from fiscal 2003.
Judges, attorneys, pretrial officials and analysts say there are several key reasons. Judges today have more programming options than ever before for low-level felons, including drug court, mental-health dockets and a community-based correctional facility. also, overall crime rates continue to fall and Cleveland, like many urban areas, is seeing the end of the crack-cocaine epidemic that filled prisons. “When you put low-level offenders in (prison) with high-level offenders, the high-level offenders don’t get better, and the low-level offenders get worse,” said Common Pleas Judge Nancy Fuerst, the court’s administrative judge.