Columbus, Ohio Mayor Andrew J. Ginther has announced $400,000 in funding for two crime reduction programs led by Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Jessica D’Varga and Franklin County Prosecutor G. Gary Tyack.
The programs receiving funds are designed to ensure public safety and reduce recidivism, (the tedency of a convicted criminal to reoffend) by providing support and resources to help mostly non-violent offenders successfully navigate and emerge from their time in the criminal justice system.
“We cannot and will not accept rising crime rates as our new normal,” said Mayor Ginther.
“We must continue to address this issue from every angle, which includes working to educate and reform our neighbors who engaged in criminal behavior. This is a community-wide effort, and the partnerships we are supporting represent the kind of innovate and thoughtful actions that are needed to build a safer, more resilient Columbus.”
The Unleashing Potential (UP) program in Judge D’Varga’s courtroom will receive $200,000 to provide transformative justice for young adults with moderate-to-high risk of recidivism, many of whom are still cognitively capable of ceasing criminal activities when engaged with proper guidance, knowledge, and resources.
Participation in the program generally lasts one year or longer and includes access to behavioral health services, trauma-informed care, parenting support, education and workforce development, and other public assistance resources.
Upon completion, a participant’s case is resolved according to a negotiated agreement, which may include the reduction or dismissal of charges – enabling graduates of the program to become productive, law-abiding members of their communities.
“This program will provide support and stability to our justice-involved 18–25-year-olds, setting them up for success through individualized case management plans that will greatly reduce the chance that they will come back into our court system and eliminating barriers to their achievement. Investing in our youth is an investment in this community that I believe will make a meaningful and long-term impact for our city,” said Judge D’Varga.
The city is also allocating $200,000 for the expansion of the Gun Violence Reduction Initiative in the County Prosecutor’s Office, which seeks to decrease illegal gun possession and, by extension, the resulting gun violence.
Franklin County is currently trending toward 1,200 illegal gun possession cases in 2021, a 67% increase over 2015.
The city’s support will help the County Prosecutor’s Office expand its personnel to, more effectively, administer illegal gun possession cases, which are up 31% over 2015 levels and far exceed peer-county caseloads.
Prosecuting attorneys in this unit also work on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a misdemeanor charge or probation may be warranted instead of a harsher sentence to avoid negatively impacting future employment and other opportunities on a permanent basis.
“Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack’s Gun Unit assesses every case with an eye toward tailoring a result that will assist those who are at risk so that they do not become a danger to the community, that will protect the public from those who are already a danger to the community and that will allow those who pose no danger to the community to resolve their case without a significant negative impact on their lives,” said John Gripshover, the unit’s director.
Columbus City Council will vote on this legislation at its meeting on Monday, July 26.