ODRC stops monitoring certain criminals; returns hundreds of probation cases to counties

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WBNS) – Quietly and without much warning, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction notified chief probation officers this summer that it would no longer provide supervision for certain criminals on probation.

The change caught several Ohio counties by surprise and sent some scrambling to figure out how to account for dozens of cases without adding more probation officers.

“We started getting phone calls from the offenders saying 'We are no longer being supervised, we have to go back to the sentencing county,'” said Scott Fulton with Licking County Adult Probation Services.

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In a letter dated May 24, top brass within ODRC notified chief probation officers across Ohio that “effective immediately, the (Adult Parole Authority) will no longer accept community control cases transferred from county probation departments to counties where the APA does not have an agreement to provide supervision services.”

The letter also said the Adult Parole Authority “does not have the authority to supervise community control cases that originate under county probation services and then are transferred…”

While some smaller counties say the change in policy had very little impact, larger, more populated counties like Franklin, Lucas and Montgomery said they were left scrambling to figure out who would monitor hundreds of criminals on probation.

Franklin County added nearly 200 cases. Montgomery County took on an additional 97 cases, nearly doubling its caseload.

Montgomery County Deputy Court Administrator Jim Yerkins told 10 Investigates his county added enough cases for him to justify asking county commissioners to fund hiring another probation officer, but he didn’t.

Donna Moore with Lucas County told 10 Investigates by phone that they've had to adapt.

“We certainly have seen a large increase. I had to redistribute one of my officer’s cases. We were getting (transfer requests) left and right," she said.

The state notified counties in that letter that it didn’t have the legal authority to monitor certain county-level probation cases, but few county probation chiefs 10TV interviewed could explain what led the state to come to this conclusion. Several chief probation officers told 10 Investigates it had been a years-long practice that ODRC would monitor certain transfer cases.

When asked if the state explained why it was doing this, Franklin County Administrative Judge Stephen McIntosh told 10 Investigates this fall it was unclear.

“Not really. Our understanding this is not something that they were, by statute, supposed to be doing. Exactly how they came to that decision and why now in the manner in which they made the change, I don't know,” he said.

In an emailed statement, JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for ODRC, told 10 Investigates:

“A routine review of caseloads revealed that some community control cases were being supervised by the APA in counties where there was not an agreement for the APA to provide probation services.”

However, several chief probation officers who have worked in criminal justice for more than 20 years told 10 Investigates it was a long-standing practice for the state’s APA to take on some of these cases. For example, if a criminal commits a crime in one county but lives in another.

Fulton said DRC mentioned something about it in the spring, but the official transition caught him and others off-guard.

“We weren't aware of when this was going to begin. It wasn't until those first couple of cases - until we got a letter basically saying this is what's happening and why,” Fulton said.

Counties interviewed by 10 Investigates have said they have since tried to make the necessary adjustments.