(WKBN) — Tuesday in our In-Depth conversation, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford spoke with Youngstown Municipal Court’s Judge Carla Baldwin. Over the past several weeks, Crawford has had conversations with other leaders, and one topic that continues to come up is recidivism. Are repeat offenders being seen in Baldwin’s term in the courts?
“I always see a familiar name here or there, but a lot of the names and a lot of, you know, first-time offenders is what we see at the municipal court level because I always say we are the emergency room of the court system. So we get all of the cases first and then we have to appropriately triage them and send them to the appropriate court or appropriate department. So we get everything. But every once in a while we get a frequent flier. But, you know, our goal is to reduce that,” said Baldwin.
As the sitting presiding judge, what is Baldwin’s function?
“My function is to make sure the process works efficiently and equitably,” said Baldwin.
Those two words just don’t seem to fit together.
“They don’t do they? They, you know, as, you know, government systems, they run. They run. But we have a duty as officers of the court to make sure that they work efficiently and that they work effectively. So the role of the court really is to make sure the process happens appropriately for each and every individual who comes into the criminal justice system. So I tell people I don’t invite anybody to court. They bring themselves into court by virtue of charges that are filed by the prosecutor’s office. And once we receive those charges, then the process begins. And we have to make sure all constitutional rights are protected and that things happen smoothly. and every party understands what’s going on in the process,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin spent a little time talking about what that process is and once charges are brought and they come before the court if they cannot afford an attorney a public defender is appointed. Is she restricted in sentencing laws by the Ohio Revised Code or how does all of that play out in her courtroom?
“At Youngstown Municipal, we receive all of the criminal offenses that occur in the city of Youngstown. So whether that be a felony offense or a misdemeanor offense, felony, of course, more serious offenses and the misdemeanor offense are the less serious offenses that we deal with in our court. We only have jurisdiction to sentence those misdemeanor offenders. So what happens is someone gets arrested by a police officer. That person may or not be held in the county jail or they may be given a summons or a ticket to appear in court for their arraignment. Now, in the interim, with those criminal cases, those are reviewed by the prosecutor’s office, and so the charges may differ from what they’re arrested for after the prosecutor gets to look at that and determine what is the most appropriate offense based on the allegations contained in the report. Once they make that determination, they take that information down to our clerk of court. They process that and then now the court is in receipt of those cases, and so for first appearance, we call that arraignment, and that’s the time for offenders to enter a plea, and so that point we determine for our misdemeanor offenders, you know, depending on how they plea, determines what we can do,” said Baldwin.
Crawford will continue the conversation with Baldwin about how the city court works on Wednesday.