We are Ohio state court judges with actual experience in imposing and/or reviewing criminal felony sentences. We are unaware of any expressed objection by Ohio’s judiciary to having more relevant information available to a sentencing court.
Sentencing discretion is conferred upon trial courts by the General Assembly through its statutory enactments, and the trial courts have full discretion to impose a prison sentence that falls within the prescribed statutory range. With such wide-ranging discretion the database will provide additional information to a sentencing judge, which will result in a more informed sentence.
Justice requires that judges get it “right.” Why prevent useful, relevant, and important information from being considered by trial judges in achieving this goal? Once the criminal sentencing database is in place, for the first time in the state’s history all stakeholders, including judges, will have access to relevant information that can inform their sentencing decisions while keeping biases, implicit or otherwise, in check. This will usher in a fairer, more transparent system that we should all support.
As stewards of the greatest system ever designed to resolve disputes and, therefore, as those empowered to see that justice is achieved, we can’t afford to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. We must seize this moment and take this long-overdue step for the betterment of our judicial system and, therefore, our society.