One participant in a new probation program in Summit County needs help getting and staying sober.
Another wants to get his driver’s license back.
A third is just six hours shy from getting his high school diploma — and needs to find a new place to live.
“This is exciting!” Summit County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones said during the first hearing for the pilot program last week. “We have a lot to do.”
Summit County Offender Recidivism Reduction (SCORR) is a ramped-up version of traditional probation that includes more visits with a probation officer and before a judge and a defined set of consequences and rewards for breaking or following rules. Participants also will get help with the obstacles in their lives that need addressed to get them back on track.
The program, which officially began April 1, is modeled after the “Swift, Certain and Fair” approach to probation that has shown positive results in Ohio and other states. The Summit County effort is being funded with a $600,000 federal grant. Data will be collected to compare the success of SCORR versus regular probation, with the possibility that the approach could be expanded.
SCORR participants are being chosen from about 1,200 people annually who are deemed a high risk for failing on probation using the Ohio Risk Assessment, which looks at factors like criminal history, ability to hold a job and substance abuse.
Jones had an initial hearing Wednesday with the first five participants.
“I want to see you succeed,” she told them. “You control your own destiny. You’ve got to commit to working hard. There are rules you have to follow.”
Jones asked Jawane Brooks, 27, if he’s been on probation before. He said he has.
“Are you going to complete the program?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered. “This right here is learning to do what I did before.”
Jones asked Timothy Carter, 29, how he’s doing in the Community Based Correctional Facility (CBCF), a treatment center run by Oriana House.
“I couldn’t ask for no better place to be,” Carter said. “It’s allowing me to put structure back in my life.”
Carter admitted to having two write-ups during his 30 days in CBCF, one for smoking and another for tampering with a lock.
Jones told Carter if he has another infraction, Adrian Foster, his probation officer, will bring him before her and she’ll send Carter to the Summit County Jail.
Carter said he’s been sober for four months, but needs help getting his driver’s license back and wants to pursue a business degree at Stark State Community College.
Aerius Harris, 18, the youngest of the participants, told Jones he needs to complete six more hours to get his high school diploma.
Harris’ girlfriend, who drove him to the hearing, is due to have their child in September and Harris needs to move by the end of June. On top of this, he’s worried about paying what he owes in restitution and to a bail bondsman.
“I have a lot to do,” he said.
“That’s why we’re all here,” Jones told him. “To help you.”
Kenneth Johnson, 26, told Jones he has a drinking problem and needs help getting sober.
Jones said she will have Johnson screened for possible entry into an Oriana House program. She asked Johnson if he has a hero in his life.
“I suppose my son,” Johnson said. “He gives me a new meaning for myself. I’m not in the best situation with his mother. He makes my life very changeable. He’s going to be the reason I do succeed.”
“You’re going to be the reason,” Jones said.
Jones predicted that Billy Williams, 45, the oldest of the participants, will complete SCORR and become a mentor for others in the program.
“I’d be honored,” Williams said, noting that this could be part of his 12-step sobriety program.
The next step for the participants will be working with Foster to develop a plan of the steps needed to improve their lives. Foster will meet with each of them next week and they’ll be back before Jones in two weeks.
After the hearing, the participants expressed optimism about the program’s potential.
“It seems in our best interest — to learn from and grow and eliminate bad habits,” Johnson said. “I’m grateful.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.