By: Dina Usanovic
Cleveland State recently accepted a large grant from the City of Cleveland for a very progressive program- $200,000 to be exact. This grant is intended to partially fund the Day One Project, an initiative to find creative solutions for problems that emerge on day one of the criminal prosecutions, specifically for poor criminal defendants.
These solutions are aimed at providing access to prompt and proper legal representation, pretrial release, and diversion programs which would be alternatives to extensive jail times. The project is led by Robert Triozzi in collaboration with the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, the Cleveland Municipal Prosecutor, and the Cuyahoga County Public Defender. The program will be receiving the renewable $200,000 grant from the city of Cleveland for the next two years and will be partially funded by a $100,000 grant from the George Gund Foundation.
These reforms of the criminal justice system will positively impact the Cleveland justice system, especially skewed incarceration rates. According to the Ohio profile found on Prison Policy Initiative, Ohio’s incarceration rate is 679 per 100,000 people, which is a higher rate than is found in most wealthy democracies. In fact, Ohio’s incarceration rate is higher than that of the entire United Kingdom. Pretrial holding is partly to blame for this higher rate of incarceration, as the rate of pretrial holding has significantly increased in Ohio recently. This could be remedied by the Day One Project.
A rather largely known fact recently brought to the public’s attention on a larger scale is the racial disparity in prisons across the country. It has been made clear to citizens across the nation that the U.S. justice system has been imposing higher charges and longer jail time on people of color- specifically African Americans and Latinos.
This is a major issue in cities whose demographics are made up largely of people of color, such as Cleveland. The city of Cleveland is 49.59% African American, according to the most recent American Community Survey by the Census Bureau. The prominent disparity in racial representation in jails and prisons across the nation majorly affects diverse cities, such as Cleveland.
The Day One Project’s initiative to provide proper representation and lower pretrial holding rates would greatly reduce the city’s incarceration rates. Since Cleveland is the state’s second-largest city, this would also greatly reduce Ohio’s incarceration rates. Providing diversion programs to avoid longer sentencing and, in some cases, any sentencing at all would provide many first time offenders with a more reformative program than jail time would offer.
These programs are aimed at changing behavioral patterns and would reduce repeat offenses. I am incredibly proud to be a student at an institution with such progressive ideas and programs. To learn more about the Day One Project, check out CSU’s announcement.