criminal justice

Local judges voice negative verdict on State Issue 1

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Common Pleas Judge Alan Mayberry uses a penny to show one of the flaws with State Issue 1. He points to the minute beard on Abraham Lincoln, and explains it would take just 2 milligrams of fentanyl to cover Lincoln’s beard – and to potentially kill 10,000 people. Then the judge explains that under Issue 1, someone could be picked up with 19 grams of fentanyl and only be charged with a misdemeanor. “That’s unconscionable,” Mayberry said. Wood County’s three common pleas judges are in agreement that Issue 1 – which will appear on the November ballot – would be bad for Ohio. The intent of the state issue is to offer treatment rather than jail time for drug offenses. The language makes the vast majority of drug offenses misdemeanors rather than felonies. “The state is struggling with whether drug addiction is a crime or a mental health issue,” Judge Reeve Kelsey said. But the judges – Matt Reger, Kelsey and Mayberry – said treatment is already being offered in Wood County. All that Issue 1 would do is result in the courts having one less tool to use to convince addicts to get clean. “We see people in front of us every day,” Reger said. A simple slap on the hand is not enough to convince most of them to give up drugs – though in front of a judge they may profess their commitment to quit. “We’ve all had someone in our courtroom who has died a week later.” Issue 1 would take away the judges’ “stick” and leave them only with the “carrot.” “There’s no stick. There’s no consequence,” Mayberry said. “They can blow off treatment or restoration, and there’s nothing we can do to them.” Wood County Common Pleas Courts already use graduated responses for drug offenders, with many people offered intervention in lieu of jail time, Reger said. Many of those sentences are designed with the individual in mind, he said. The offenders can be ordered to attend treatment, get education, get mental health help, go to an anger management or domestic violence program, or perform community service. “It’s giving them the tools to live,” Kelsey said. “We already have gradual responses,” Reger said. “We’re already doing it.” For example, Reger has required offenders to work on getting their GEDs, do volunteer reading to kids at the library, or work at the 577 Foundation. “We try to be very individualized to that person,” he said. However, if the offenders fail to follow through on the judges’ orders, the threat of jail is always hanging over their heads. That will no longer be the case if Issue 1 passes. “All we can do is say, ‘No, no. Be a better person,’” Kelsey said. “This will not work.” It’s not uncommon for an addict to come in for a drug test before arraignment, professing that they are drug free – only to be found with multiple drugs in their system. “That person is not going to give up drugs,” voluntarily, Reger said. But under Issue 1, the judges would not be able to order jail time for a person who fails a drug test. The three judges also feel strongly that making these changes in a state…

Read More

Vivitrol helps jump start recovery for opiate addicts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Travis Williams knows that without Vivitrol, opiate addicts who just went through detox are likely to start using again as soon as their buddies pick them up at jail. “They overdose before they ever leave the parking lot,” Williams said. But he also knows that using Vivitrol can take away the cravings and the highs that cause many opiate addicts to relapse an average of seven times. “You might as well take a tic-tac,” since it will provide the same high as opiates do while on Vivitrol, Williams said during a meeting last week in Wood County about recovering from opiates. Attending the meeting were those who deal with the local addicts in the courts, law enforcement, public health and social services. In June of 2016, Vivitrol shots were started in Wood County Justice Center for opiate addicts who want to quit. Since then, 34 inmates have received their first shots in jail, which were then followed up with monthly shots and counseling on the outside. Northwest Community Corrections Center has a similar program. “We are working on a definition of success, but as of June of 2017 we have 21 people who we feel are still compliant with the program,” said Doug Cubberley, chief probation officer and court administrator at Bowling Green Municipal Court. “Only two people have gone out and reoffended by committing new crimes.” Cubberley remembers the day a man came to his court probation office begging to go to jail. “We had one young man come to our office who said, ‘If I don’t go to jail, I’m going to die.’” The man was addicted to opiates and knew it was only a matter of time till he overdosed, Cubberley said last year. Probation workers in Wood County began noticing in 2014 that something was killing their clients. “They were dying at alarming rates,” Cubberley said. So the conversation started about opiates and their growing grasp on people of all ages and backgrounds. “We all wanted to think it was only in Cleveland or Toledo,” he said. But it was clearly here, too. So leaders in the police, court and drug treatment professions started looking for a solution. Community meetings on the opiate epidemic were held in Bowling Green, Perrysburg and North Baltimore. Statistics show the highest rate of accidental overdose occurs when an addict leaves jail or a treatment program, Cubberley said. “Once they are in jail, they lose tolerance to opiates.” And that often leads to deadly results. So Project Direct Link is intended to offer opiate addicts a different course. The program gives inmates an injection of Vivitrol, a drug that helps prevent cravings and doesn’t allow them to feel the positive effects of opiates. The injection lasts 28 days, which gives the person a “safety net” until they are linked up with treatment programs. Williams, of Alkermes Inc., covers his company’s Vivitrol programs in Ohio, Kentucky Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. “I’m in the hotbed of addictions,” he said last week. Williams is not a reformed opiate addict, so he can’t speak from the seat of those using Vivitrol. However, he can speak for the family members who watch addicts destroy their lives and the lives of those who love them. “I do know…

County prosecutor sets up opiate response team

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County has its first employees assigned specifically to battle the opiate crisis. Sixteen people died of opiate overdoses in the county last year, according to the Wood County Coroner’s Office. In response to a survey of local first responders, 16 departments said they responded to 83 opiate overdoses last year, and administered the life-saving drug Naloxone 60 times. And in an 18-month period, the county prosecutor’s office saw about 130 drug cases. Getting addicts in treatment, and getting them back after relapses are important, Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said during a meeting with the county commissioners. The average person experiences seven relapses during their three to five years of trying to get free of opiates. On Tuesday, Dobson and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn announced the implementation of a new program in the prosecutor’s office to battle the opiate and drug epidemic. The program has been named the Addiction Response Collaborative, or ARC. Earlier this year, Dobson – who lost a stepson to opiate addiction – introduced his four-tiered plan for dealing with the opiate epidemic in Wood County. The plan called for the creation of a quick response team, a pre-trial diversion program in the prosecutor’s office, an intervention in lieu of sentencing program in the courts, and the establishment of a drug docket in the courts. The program team includes a Drug Addiction and Abuse Response Coordinator hired by the prosecutor’s office through funding from the Wood County Commissioners, the Wood County ADAMHS Board, and the Wood County Health District. Filling the position is Luckey resident Belinda Brooks, who knows from experience the horrors of opiate addictions and the hopes for recovery. Brooks, whose daughter battled opiates for several years, formed SOLACE of Northwest Ohio, a group that provides services for family members of addicts. Her daughter, now 25, was first prescribed percocets after a serious ATV accident seven years ago. It wasn’t long till she was addicted. Brooks, who knew nothing about opiates, believed it couldn’t be that bad since it was a prescribed medication. She soon saw how horrible it could be. Brooks learned that by hiding the addiction and helping her daughter clean up money problems, she was fueling her daughter’s addiction. “It was three years of complete hell,” Brooks said. “Your lives change forever. You have to change your parenting.” Her daughter’s rock bottom came when she was charged with nine felony counts in Toledo. Brooks cut ties with her daughter and took over raising her grandson. She remembers the words she told her daughter that day. “I love you. But I’m done. Don’t ever call me again unless you’re in treatment.” Her daughter went to jail and they did not speak for six months. It’s now been almost two years since she has been clean. But as a parent, Brooks knows relapse could be right around the corner. “I worry every day,” she said. “The destruction it causes is devastating,” resulting in many aging grandparents taking over care of their grandchildren. Dobson said Brooks was a perfect fit for the new position. “Belinda has been passionately advocating on behalf of this population for years,” Dobson said in the press release. “She’s really already been doing this job without a title or funding….

BGSU prof launches database that tracks cases of police being arrested

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Phil Stinson, the go-to scholar for police shootings, has launched a new database that tracks instances of police going bad. Stinson, who teaches criminal justice at Bowling Green State University, has created The Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database. The site went live Tuesday and can be reached at: The database was funded the Wallace Action Fund of the Tides foundation. Using media reports and court records, Stinson and a team of student assistants has compiled information on 8,006 instances of sworn nonfederal police officers being arrested between 2005 and 2012. That includes four cases in Wood County.* The database uses 159 different variables to describe each individual case, providing data about the arrested officer, the officer, and the disposition. What it doesn’t provide, Stinson said, is the name of the officer. “We’re not publishing names because we don’t see any benefit from a research perspective.” However, using the details that are provided, someone could fairly easily discover those names, he said. “We’re not trying to hide so many facts that you couldn’t find them.” Stinson said: “It’s important that there be knowledge of it so that law enforcement agencies can start to address it. These are not just one-offs and not just outliers. Some are huge problems.” One part of addressing it is providing help for officers who are having problems. “You look at domestic violence, it just seems to be too many cases.” “We envision people will use this database to learn about the incidence and prevalence of police misconduct in their own communities,” he said. They may start looking up reports from their hometowns then “get lost in it and understand the phenomenon in a broader sense.” Assault is the most commonly charged offense with simple assault at number one, and aggravated assault at number four.  Drunk driving is the second most commonly charged offense, followed by various types of official misconduct. Drug offenses are next. Drugs of choice in order are cocaine, marijuana, crack, steroids, and oxycodone. Rounding out the most frequent offenses are: forcible fondling, false reports-false statements, intimidation, weapons law violation, and forcible rape. Of those sexually assaulted, Stinson said, just over half are under 18. And school resource officers are more likely to be commit sex crimes. He has uncovered a pattern of officers sexually abusing youths enrolled in Explorer programs. This is the first time this information is available. Attempts by the federal government to gather the data have been stymied because it requires agencies to self-report. Some data is available, but not in a format that makes it so readily accessible. Stinson said the database – the public database is a large subset of the data he has accumulated for his research which tracks 270 variables – comes from 48 Google alerts that track reports of cases of officers being arrested. This digital dragnet has snared 6,596 individual nonfederal sworn law enforcement officers, employed by 2830 state and local law enforcement agencies in 1302 counties and independent cities from all 50 states. Once a case is identified, another search is created to track it. The researchers will then search court records to determine the outcome of the case. Research assistants cull the stories, which are printed out, for all the essential variables. Stinson said…

BGSU’s Albert Dzur to receive medal for promoting democracy

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Dr. Albert Dzur, professor of political science and philosophy at Bowling Green State University, is the winner of the 2017 Laurence and Lynne Brown Democracy Medal from the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State University. The McCourtney Institute promotes rigorous scholarship and practical innovations to advance the democratic process in the United States and abroad. The institute awards the Brown Democracy Medal annually to honor the best work being done to advance democracy in the United States and internationally. “Albert Dzur’s work represents an important new frontier in democratic theory,” noted Dr. Michael Berkman, professor of political science and director of the McCourtney Institute, in announcing the 2017 Brown Democracy Medal recipient. “When partisan rancor is at an all-time high and confidence in democratic processes is at an all-time low, Dzur shows that democracy is still an effective and empowering way for citizens to address their common problems.” Dzur argues that some of the most innovative and important work in democracy is taking place face-to-face and is encouraged by power-sharing professionals who bring citizens into their decision-making processes. These “democratic professionals” co-create institutional cultures that lead to better decisions, increased trust and less “civic lethargy.” His most recent work focuses on how democratic professionalism can better manifest itself in the operation of our criminal justice system — from juries to prisons. He rejects the conventional wisdom that more expertise and less democracy are needed in criminal justice because of the links between a fearful public, demagogic politicians and mass incarceration. Instead, Dzur focuses on the more foundational problem of “repellent” criminal justice institutions that hinder public awareness of the moral complexity, harmful effects and deeply biased implementation of punishment. He advocates, as remedies, more widespread citizen action and reflection within a revitalized jury system, restorative justice programs and community policing. Dzur’s research in democratic theory has sparked long-term collaborations and has found many practical applications. It has captured the attention of organizations in the United States and around the world. Oxford University and Leeds University in the U.K., for example, are holding a three-year series of seminars based on his concept of democratic professionalism to introduce new approaches to mental health care. Dzur is also a research fellow at the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Edinburgh and an associate at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at Canberra University (Australia). He is the author of the books “Democratic Professionalism: Citizen Participation and the Reconstruction of Professional Ethics, Identity, and Practice” (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008); “Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury” (Oxford University Press, 2012); and co-editor of “Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration” (Oxford University Press, 2016). He serves on the editorial boards of Howard Journal of Crime and Justice and Restorative Justice: An International Journal. He also writes regularly for the Boston Review, including a series called “TrenchDemocracy: Participatory Innovation in Unlikely Places.” Dzur will receive his democracy medal and present the Brown Lecture at a ceremony scheduled to take place at Penn State University on Oct. 20. The lecture will subsequently be published by Cornell University Press.

Mazey addresses sexual assault concerns in State of the University

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In her State of the University address Friday, President Mary Ellen Mazey spoke about the changes in how Bowling Green State University handles sexual assaults. Last spring a student went public with her story of being raped and her futile efforts to have the perpetrator stop harassing her. That prompted a protest and a call for a change in the way BGSU’s approaches the problem. A number of faculty members in Women’s and Gender Studies sent the administration a letter spelling out what they believed should be done. (Story here.) Mazey convened a task force that met over the summer. That task force has issued its recommendations, and the administration has accepted them all. (Story here.) In an interview after the State of the University address, Mazey said that she was impressed with the work the task force accomplished. It was headed by Alex Solis, a former undergraduate student body president who now works in the president’s office, Meg Burrell, the undergraduate student representative to the Board of Trustees, and Dr. Maureen Wilson, of the College of Education. In her address, Mazey promised to work to implement the task force’s recommendations. “As a community, we must all come together to prevent sexual assaults from occurring, make sure survivors are properly supported, and continue to ensure that our investigative processes are thorough, fair, equitable and respectful.” Sarah Anne Rainey, an associate professor in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies, was one of the professors who helped draft the letter last spring to Mazey and served on the task force. “We did a lot of data gathering on best practices, and I can honestly say that I am impressed with the administration’s willingness to take our recommendations,” she wrote in an email this week.  This led her to believe the administration is addressing their concerns. “I’m especially happy that they are hiring a new Women’s Center Director, and I’m impressed with the creation of a new Center with increased resources, staffing, and training to deal more effectively with sexual assaults and to help the University’s prevention efforts.” The university’s response earned praised from the producers of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary film about rape on college campuses. “More campuses need to follow @bgsu‘s lead in creating new, focused sexual assault conduct policies and task forces,” they tweeted this week. Mazey also announced that Jennifer McCary, now at Gettysburg College, will join the BGSU administration assistant vice president for student affairs and Title IX coordinator. Mazey said later that she heard McCary speak at a meeting of presidents from private and public colleges on Title IX. One president said it was the best presentation on Title IX that he’d ever heard. Mazey said bringing McCary back to BGSU – she’s an alumnae – “will make a real difference to us.”

Rainbow pride flag to rise again over Unitarian Universalist church

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The rainbow pride flag has flown at the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation for longer than the Rev. Lynn Kerr can remember. She knows it was flown on occasion before she arrived at the church six years ago, and that it has been a constant presence since after she arrived. “We want it to be known that we’re welcoming so we have a big flag out there,” Kerr said. Many of the congregants, she said, identify as LBGTQ, or as allies. “We welcome anyone from the community to join us, especially LBGTQ.” That extends now to those who on Tuesday trespassed on the church’s property on Ohio 25, and ripped down the flag. Photos taken of the incident that Kerr and members of the congregation have seen, indicate the vandals were teenagers. “I felt bad that there are teenagers who have this kind of hate,” Kerr said. “That does not bode well for our future.” The Wood County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident. The suspects have not been positively identified, the BG Independent was told. The incident will not keep the congregation from flying the rainbow colors, though. Kerr said that organizers of Toledo’s Pride Parade, scheduled for Saturday (Aug. 19), will present the church with a new flag. On Sunday (Aug. 20) about noon after the service, congregants will gather out front to raise the new flag. Kerr said the public is invited to join them. The flag and the congregation’s outspoken support for LBGTQ rights has drawn criticism before. “We’ve riled some people up, but never felt in danger.” And it’s not only been flying the flag that has drawn the ire. “We put controversial messages on the board, important and liberal and good messages. Some people don’t like those either.” After the 2015 murder of nine black churchgoers at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, MVUUC posted: “Confederate flag down rainbow flag up.” The complaints come in the form of and e-mails, like the packet of Biblical passages sent to Kerr monthly. One local minister told Kerr she shouldn’t call herself a minister because of what she preaches. She and her congregants are undeterred. “I tell my congregation we’re not going to return their fear and hate with more anger. We’re going to return it with compassion.” Kerr said she will address the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the desecration of their flag in her sermon on Sunday. Kerr said she believes the vandals were “acting out of fear of the unknown.” “I wish they would get to know us and find that we’re not scary, that we welcoming people and loving people.”