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Kiosks allow offenders to report remotely to probation officers

A remote reporting kiosk in the lobby of the Akron Municipal Building remains available for qualified offenders to use in lieu of traditional face-to-face reporting. Three other kiosks are spread throughout the city. (Photo by Benjamin White/Akron Legal News)

Associate Editor

Published: December 7, 2012

By taking part in one of the first programs of its kind in Ohio, Summit County Court of Common Pleas probationers may now report remotely through four kiosks located throughout the area.

Administrative Judge Judy Hunter said the kiosk program, started this summer, will only serve low-risk probationers, leaving more time for officers to focus on more dangerous offenders.

“The research over the years has shown that offenders that are determined to be low risk are better off if they aren’t thrown in with the higher-risk population,” she said.

The bright blue, ATM-like kiosks are located in the Akron and Barberton police departments, the Stow Municipal Court and the Urban Ounce of Prevention Services office on South Hawkins Avenue. The Summit County Court of Common Pleas General Division Adult Probation Department plans to add a fifth machine somewhere on the southeastern side of Akron.

Probationers can access the remote reporting program from any kiosk in the county through fingerprint scans. Then comes a series of questions, which a probation officer will review and, if necessary, follow up with the offender.

Funding for the program comes from the state Department of Correction’s Probation Improvement Grant. Offenders assigned to kiosk reporting are still under the supervision of probation officers and the courts.

Though about 280 offenders are currently enrolled in the remote reporting program, Judge Hunter said she hopes for 350 to eventually participate.

“We believe that this program will continue to grow and show success,” she said in a press release. “Low risk offenders will have the ability to complete their probation sentence without endangering their work schedule.”

Though Lucas County, home to Toledo, offers a similar program, Judge Hunter said she believes Summit County’s launch of the program will spurs others to do the same.

“Our court’s been at the forefront in getting risk assessment inventory utilized with offenders,” she said.

Clint Spencer will serve as the probation officer in charge of the program under Adult Probation Manager Doug Elliott.

Judge Hunter cited the schedules of public transportation as a contributing factor to the decision to start the program. She also said recent research performed at the University of Cincinnati bolstered their hopes of a more efficient program and a safer community. Offenders breaking the program’s rules would receive the same punishment as who report in person.

“Our goal is to give them every opportunity to prove that they can be a productive citizen,” she said.