Normally, an argument over statistics is an argument to be avoided. However, when certain statistics are blatantly misused, such an argument cannot be avoided. This is particularly true where the disputed numbers have a direct bearing on public safety.
The current prosecutor had recently resorted to a numbers game to try to persuade the general public or anyone willing to listen that his office is performing well. He had relied upon these numbers at public forums in support of his quest for re-election. Indeed, recent campaign literature generated by the current prosecutor touts the numbers and pledges that the office is “…fighting to keep your family safe!” Sadly, nothing could be farther from the truth and, at best, these numbers only tell part of the story.
The campaign literature in question claims that in the year 2010-11, the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office obtained 1,405 “convictions” and secured 445 “prison commitments.” The fatal mistake made by the current prosecutor is that he did not bother to review the raw data underlying the conviction numbers.
The numbers on which he is staking his campaign and credibility were collected by the Community Corrections Association, a local community-based correctional facility that, among other things, analyzes the disposition of felony cases in the common pleas court system. The underlying data reveals that some of the numbers the current prosecutor is claiming as “convictions” are not actually “convictions” at all. The overall numbers include cases involving multiple offenders, probation violations, and judicial releases.
Multiple offender cases involve an individual who, while currently under indictment for a felony offense and typically free on bond in the community, commits a new felony offense. Probation violations are cases in which an individual who has been sentenced to a community control sanction (i.e. probation) has re-offended – committed some new violation of the law or violated a probation rule. Judicial releases are cases in which the individual has been sentenced to prison and is now seeking an early release from the sentence.
A review of the raw data reveals that the actual number of convictions is far less than the 1,405 claimed by the current county prosecutor. The total number of judicial releases is 122. The balance consists of probation violations. The problem with the latter two categories is that the chart is “double dipping” on these numbers. So, he is utilizing the prior conviction in past statistics and later utilizing the probation violation or judicial release as a separate “conviction.”
Likewise, the number of “prison commitments” claimed by the current prosecutor is somewhat suspect. A simple examination of the actual number of new prison commitments from Mahoning County reveals several problems with the number claimed: (1) The actual number of new prison commitments is lower according to official state numbers; (2) The number does not account for offenders who have had their cases pled down to probation able offenses who then re-offend; (3) The number does not account for offenders who have been released early from prison who now re-offend and have to be returned to prison or subjected to some additional sanction.
Table 1.1 New Prison Commitments, 2006-2010
Source:OhioSupreme Court Reports
Perhaps coincidentally, or, perhaps not, the number of commitments peaked in 2008 – the last election year. A troubling situation, if this is the case, as it shows an election year “push” instead of consistent Justice.
So, given that the numbers claimed by the current prosecutor are clearly suspect and other misleading statistics have been published, what numbers are available that will more accurately demonstrate the performance of the office? We can also turn to official state ofOhioreports for that answer.
Generally speaking, two options are available at the time of sentencing – prison or a community control sanction (probation). The data in the following chart clearly shows that the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office has spearheaded a dramatic increase in the number of convicted felons who remain in our community.
Table 1.2 Offenders Under a Community Control Sanction
Source:OhioAdult Parole Authority Monthly Reports
The years 2006 to 2010 saw a staggering increase of 45% in the number of felons in our community. The most recent numbers available from the state (September 2011) for the number of individuals under a community control sanction in Mahoning County show that the population is holding steady at 45%.
A lingering question should be, how did we get here? The answer is not complex and, again, is found in legitimate statistics from the state ofOhio. The final chart shows that the percentage of cases in which a defendant has “pled as charged” has toppled to never before seen lows in the last two years. The county prosecutor’s office went from a fairly steady claimed number of approximately 87% – meaning that 87% of the defendants pled to the charges and specifications with which they were indicted. That number has now dropped to 48% based on the statistics turned in byMahoningCountyto the Ohio Supreme Court.
Table 1.3 Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office “Pled as Charged Rate,” 2006-2010*
Source:OhioSupreme Court Reports
What this means is that the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office is plea bargaining more than half of the cases they indict!
The current county prosecutor has created a recipe for disaster – far too many cases are being plea bargained; offenders are remaining in the community on probation; and, fewer offenders are going to prison. One other important factor to bear in mind is that none of these official statistics take into account the number of dismissals or acquittals that are occurring during the present administration.
This dismal performance flies in the face of the current prosecutor’s justifications for the outrageous raises he granted in 2010 and 2011 for his staff. These raises ranged up to 22% and the main justification was to retain “experienced” attorneys. It becomes apparent that the public is getting less work from the prosecutor’s office for more money.
It’s no wonder whyMahoningCountyis facing a crime problem. The Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office has created a revolving door in which criminals are returned to the streets and remain here to continue to again victimize our community. Paul Gains would have you think otherwise but the proof is there and the conclusions are obvious.
Final note: When the problems with the statistics were brought to Mr. Gains’ attention, he immediately admitted the numbers were incorrect and stopped the future use of his campaign literature. While he demanded that Community Corrections send him an e-mail detailing the errors, this does not excuse his use and reliance on the numbers without exercising due diligence.