Cuyahoga County judges opt out of first year of program meant to divert low-level convicts from prison

Cleveland Plain Dealer | Cory Shaffer

Cuyahoga County’s judges cited concerns over public safety, judicial independence and money as the reasons the county won’t participate in the first year of a new state program meant to keep low-level felony offenders out of prison.

The 34 judges who make up the county’s common pleas court bench voted Wednesday to reject a $2.5 million block grant from the state to participate in the Targeted Community Alternative to Prison program starting in 2018. The vote came during their annual meeting.

The program, created and paid for by a provision that state lawmakers inserted into the state’s bi-annual budget, provides grants to local courts to incentivize diverting low-level, non-violent felony offenders away from prison and into alternative programs, like community-control or drug treatment.

Lawmakers set aside about $60 million from the prison’s budget to pay for the program over the next two years.

Lawmakers gave local courts the choice whether to participate in the first year of the program. The second year is mandatory.

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