UC partners with Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission

Partnership establishes the Ohio Sentencing Data Platform

The University of Cincinnati entered into a partnership that has the potential of improving the criminal justice system in the state of Ohio.

UC has teamed with the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission, an affiliated office of the Ohio Supreme Court that brings together judges, attorneys, behavioral health professionals, academics, corrections officials, law enforcement, victims’ advocates and others with a direct interest in criminal sentencing.

On Monday, UC and the commission announced the partnership to create the Ohio Sentencing Data Platform (OSDP), a website that will serve as an informational resource for the public and a guide for judges and court staff.

“One of the overarching goals of our strategic direction at the University of Cincinnati is to solve problems that matter,” UC President Neville Pinto said during a ceremony Monday morning in Columbus. “Partnering with the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission and the Ohio Supreme Court to develop a platform that will potentially improve our criminal justice system — this is solving a problem that matters.

“Employing the expertise of our IT faculty and students to bring together disconnected criminal justice data sources in our state to better inform decision making — this is of utmost importance to our society. It is also of utmost importance to our students.”

Problem solving is pragmatic learning, and this is part of our DNA at UC.

UC President Neville Pinto

Until recently, Ohio didn’t have a central index that compiles and tracks information on sentencing, such as the number of people sentenced for a specific felony in a given year.

“Those of us who have been entrusted with the duty to lead and to participate in the criminal justice system have an obligation to make sure there is public trust in that system and that the system delivers," Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said. "Diverse justice for all. And data collection will make that happen.”

“There's no doubt whatsoever that we picked the right university to partner with the right people.”

The OSDP will establish standardized data for felony sentencing in all 88 counties in Ohio and is the first step to providing accessible and searchable information that can help judges make sentencing decisions.

O’Connor and Pinto signed a partnership to establish the OSDP, which will be managed by the Information Technology Solutions Center (ITSC) at UC’s School of Information Technology.

The OSDP will help create a data-informed environment that allows for thorough understanding and analysis of the criminal justice system by those involved with the courts and will increase transparency to the public.

The OSDP project is designed “to tell the story of sentencing in Ohio.” That story begins when judges integrate specific forms into their existing court processes, which will, for the first time, provide statewide, reliable and accessible information on sentencing outcomes.

OSDP goals include enhancing the fair administration of justice by using data to inform decision making, making data accessible for the public and practitioners and improving transparency of felony sentencing.

“The truth is that leaving our campus borders to collaborate with both the private and public sector to solve real-world problems prepares future graduates like nothing else can,” Pinto said. “Problem solving is pragmatic learning, and this is part of our DNA at UC.

“Beyond experiential learning however, our goal is to transform society through game-changing knowledge. And I can’t think of a better application than that which we are discussing today — a data-informed environment that allows for a thorough understanding and analysis of the criminal justice system,” he added.

The project started in February 2020 with a conversation between Sara Andrews, the executive director of the sentencing commission, Ed Latessa, the director of the UC School of Criminal Justice at the time, and Hazem Said, the head of the School of Information Technology and director of the ITSC.

The conversation led to the development of a proposed multiyear road map for a framework that focuses on learning, designing, developing, piloting and deploying. The road map was adopted, leading to the discovery phase in September 2020. The project quickly built momentum and expanded, leading to Monday’s announcement.

Founded in 2012 by Said, the ITSC integrates the expertise of faculty, staff and students to build and support IT solutions for government, public and private organizations.

With more than 1,300 students, UC’s School of Information Technology is home to the largest computing program on campus and Ohio’s first bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in information technology. The 2021 U.S. News & World Report ranked the master’s program as 12th in the nation.

Read more about the Ohio Sentencing Data Platform.

Featured image of Ohio Sentencing Data Platform signing ceremony by Ely Margolis/Supreme Court of Ohio.

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