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S.C.O.R.R., a new probation program in Summit County, gives offenders a chance to rewrite their future

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Posted at 8:25 AM, Nov 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-15 17:53:37-05

AKRON, Ohio — In the first few months of the Summit County Offender Recidivism Reduction program, or S.C.O.R.R., Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones is optimistic about the program that she oversees.

The program just began its three-year trial period, trying out a new approach to probation while prisons are overcrowded and probation officers juggle large caseloads.

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Judge Jones addresses Valor Court and S.C.O.R.R. participants before a resource fair in Summit County.

"We call it S.C.O.R.R. because we keep score in life so why wouldn't we keep it, good or bad, here on probation," said Judge Jones.

Instead of assigning participants to a probation officer, participants get a case manager and a sheet that outlines actions and their consequences. It's possible because of a grant that pays for the case managers and in-house drug testing, allowing for faster results and, if necessary, consequences.

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Judge Jones has a baseball scoreboard in her courtroom.

Human subjectivity is removed from the equation.

"It's swift, it's certain, and it's fair," said Judge Jones.

And in the program's first few months, Judge Jones says it's working.

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Valor Court and S.C.O.R.R. participants are connected through the court to local organizations that can help them get jobs, housing, or services.

Among the 18 participants in the program, the court says there have already been 29 incentives given out. Those incentives can be a reduction in an offender's sentence, fewer reporting requirements, or even a bus pass to get to work.

The program is able to supervise up to 50 participants that the court considers likely to commit another crime.

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After participants talk to one of the various organizations, they get signatures from the people behind the table, proving they gathered information from that location.

One of those participants is Christopher Price.

"I was being in the street, doing a lot of things I knew I had no business doing," said Price, talking about the time before he was in the S.C.O.R.R. program. "Things that I'm not proud of."

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Price talks to one vendor at the resource fair about establishing a bank account and line of credit, since he's never had a credit card before.

Eventually, that life put him in prison for a year after an aggravated burglary charge. When Price got out, he says he was determined not to go back.

"I got behind the walls and I saw that this wasn't the life for me," said Price.

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Judge Jones checks in with other participants after they've spoken with various organizations at the resource fair.

S.C.O.R.R. is giving Price the chance to turn his life around by not only putting him in control of meeting the program's expectations, but also by connecting him with community groups that can help him and other participants get the services they need.

"I'm sure some of you saw what's going on on the first floor," said Judge Jones to a courtroom full of S.C.O.R.R. and Valor Court participants. "You have everybody here ready to help you. Help yourself today."

Resource fairs connect people like Price to organizations that can help them get a job, find housing, or get other services so they don't break the law again.

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Judge Jones oversees the S.C.O.R.R. program and Summit County's Valor Court for defendants with military service.

Already, Jones say he can see the difference in himself.

"I don't miss any court dates, I don't have any excuses for why I can't be here on time," said Price.

It's coming at the right time, because Price started getting in trouble while seeing his own father get locked up. Now, his five-year-old brother watches everything Price does, so it's up to him to set a better example.

"I don't ever want him to have to see the walls or wear orange and not be able to talk to the people that you love when you want to," said Price.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.