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Advocates: Disparate sentences show sentencing change need

August 9, 2021 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Leaders of Black faith organizations, labor groups, current and former judges and social activists are highlighting two sentences handed down in Cuyahoga County Court last week as justification for changes to the state’s sentencing system.

In one case, a Black woman received 18 months in prison for stealing $42,000 from a suburban school where she was a secretary. In another case, a white woman received probation after stealing nearly $250,000 from the village where she worked as a clerk, cleveland.com reported.

“Are we satisfied with a system that would allow for two extremely different results like this?” said Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly, a proponent of a statewide sentencing database that’s currently under construction with a goal of more uniform sentences for defendants.

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Judges weighing a sentence could enter multiple factors into the database, such as the number of victims in a crime or whether restitution was paid, and then draft a sentence by comparing it to those given in similar cases statewide.

Ten of 34 Cuyahoga County judges have agreed to participate in the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission project, as have all judges in Summit County, home to Akron. The majority of state judges have yet to sign on.