Judge Stacy Cook of the Lucas County Common Pleas court has a unique way of dealing with some of the offenders she sees on a daily basis. While many judges are quick to order a traditional term of probation or even jail time, Judge Cook seems to think a little further outside the box. She commonly requires offenders to write reports, 5 page reports, on topics related to their offenses. And it seems to have a positive effect.
The reports, and other unique terms, are added to the offender’s probation, as a condition that must be fulfilled. Though the Toledo Blade reports she occasionally gets sighs and eye rolling when she makes the assignment, she often gets a completely different look when the defendant turns in their report.
Writing five pages on “youth at risk with drugs/alcohol and guns”, for instance, requires someone convicted of a drug and weapons offense to look at the big picture of their offense. It requires them to really delve deep to come up with five pages of work, not a simple task for many.
She could adhere to the typical sentencing practices but “from years of practicing law, I felt that there was a huge missing link in getting people to understand what they did wrong, not just in committing the crime but where there was an error in judgment,” Judge Cook said. Her unique homework assignments are an attempt to help defendants reach this ah-ha moment and hopefully help them steer clear of future involvement with the law.
She doesn’t order everyone she sentences to do these reports, but usually tries to use them with repeat offenders.
There’s no research on just how effective Judge Cook’s methods are but she gauges her success by the number of repeat offenders who come through the doors of her courtroom and those who violate the terms of their probation. She sees it as an effective tool and disregards critics who might say she needs to be doling out tougher penalties.
The public defender in Judge Cook’s courtroom, Richard Hasbrook, says the method is a unique tool and one designed to bring “discipline and structure to otherwise undisciplined and unstructured lives.” He appreciates the judge’s efforts and says “I’m glad we have a judge with foresight and courage to do (alternative sentencing) with adult offenders. A lot of individuals deserve second chances. Not everyone but a lot of people do, and by making them do something like a paper, I guarantee they’ll remember it later.”
When you face criminal charges, probation can often seem like a win-win for everyone involved. It saves you from prison and saves the state time and money. But probation isn’t always an easy road. The terms of your probation can vary depending on your offense and a variety of other circumstances.
If you are facing criminal charged in Ohio or if you have violated your probation, contact our offices for a free consultation on your case today.