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I TEAM: judges offered money to keep convicts out of prison

CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I TEAM is investigating a plan developed by state leaders that could keep more criminals on the street.

The state is pushing a plan of rewarding judges for not sending people to prison. The goal is to encourage judges to keep more non-violent convicts out of prison.

Under the plan, the state would pay counties $23/day for each convict not sent to prison. This covers criminals convicted of the lowest level felonies, and they must be non-violent cases. The convicts also have to have no prior cases of violence.

However, some judges believe that is selling justice, and this leaves them handcuffed.

We asked the head of the Ohio Department of Corrections if this could simply end up putting bad people back on the streets?

Gary Mohr said, no. He added, "If all we're going to do is take these folks and throw them in jail, one, I think that's wrong, and, there's not enough money to do that. Community programs are twice as effective at one-third the cost."

Mohr argues probation and treatment can have an impact since the jail population has been soaring with prisoners in low-level drug cases.

Mohr says the program is being tested in 8 counties now, including Medina County. It could be expanded statewide in the next two years.

Sylvia Pointer came home from church Sunday to find her home burglarized. She thinks the courts are already too soft. She said, "But nine times out of ten, if there is no gun involved, smack on the wrist. ‘I'm warning you, don't do it again.’ Well, what is that saying?"

She added, "But if there's nothing for these people from the beginning, but to say, ‘ I need some help’, then say you need some help before you commit the crime."

Gary Mohr met with Cuyahoga County judges Wednesday afternoon, but the I TEAM was not allowed inside..