Re-Entry Court gets final certification

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 24, 2021

Goal is to reduce repeat offenses

The Lawrence County Re-Entry Court of the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas has earned final certification from the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Specialized Dockets.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor congratulated the Judge Christen Finley for receiving final certification.

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“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,” O’Connor said. “Studies have shown this approach works by reducing recidivism while saving tax dollars.”

Finley said that taking the bench in 2019, one of the things she quickly noticed was how many repeat offenders there were in Lawrence County court system.

“Even when offenders are sentenced to prison, the reality is that those offenders often come back to our community when their prison terms end,” she said. “Unfortunately, they often-times return to us jobless, suffering from untreated mental health and/or substance abuse disorders, uneducated or untrained and, in some cases, homeless.”

Finley said those factors do not typically steer people away from a life of crime. Instead, those factors are more likely to make people feel hopeless and desperate and propel them towards a life of crime.

“The Lawrence County Re-entry Court is a useful tool for addressing the issue of recidivism and for helping offenders overcome barriers to becoming productive and successful citizens. We are looking forward to bettering Lawrence County and seeing more lives changed through this program,” she said.

Finley expressed her thanks and gratefulness to the Adult Probation Department, Chief Carl Bowen, Captain Lynne Stewart, Re-Entry Court Coordinator Dustin Owens, and for all of the members of the Treatment Team and Advisory Committee for their commitment to the program and the community.

“This opportunity would not be possible without them,” she said.

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 and human trafficking.

In order to receive the certification, the local court had to submit an application, undergo a site visit, and provide specific program materials as set forth by the Ohio Supreme Court. 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.