CLEVELAND -- A program designed to deal with traffic and misdemeanor offenders in the Cleveland court system is allowing participants to graduate and get off probation without completing all its requirements.
The Get on Track program is a probation-based program that is designed to have participants establish long-term goals, pursue their education, and maintain long term employment.
If successful, the participants graduate from the program and get off probation.
But a study by two Cleveland State University professors and an investigation by WKYC-TV News found that most of the program's participants failed to complete all the requirements, felony criminals were mixed in with those charged with misdemeanor crimes, and many failed to pay their $200 fee to participate.
Despite not completing the program, many still graduated.
The CSU study found that of the 83 people listed as graduating from GOT in October 2010, only 27 percent had completed all requirements of the program.
Only 62 of the 83 graduates had completed their high school education requirements; 22 had finished paying their fees, and only 7 of the 83 had completed a required social service program
Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Emanuella Groves defended the program and said the CSU study had "no level of intellectual integrity whatsoever." It was "very elementary and simplistic." Judge Groves also said those with felony convictions were included on "a case by case basis."
WKYC found some very disturbing elements of the GOT program, whose own manual states that only traffic and misdemeanor offenders are allowed to sign up.
One graduate was a registered sex offender with six prior felonies. Another had a prior weapons conviction while accepted into the program, and later plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter for a deadly robbery while still in the program.
Judge Groves seemed perturbed that any news media was even looking at the program. "We extended a courtesy to come into our office," the judge told Channel 3 investigative reporter Tom Meyer. "I don't have to talk to you."
But Ronald B. Adrine, the Administrative and Presiding Judge for the Cleveland Municipal Court system, says the courts welcome any help in "its efforts to move worthy individuals to from failed to successful lives."
"While we take umbrage with some of the report's methodology, conclusions and recommendations," Judge Adrine said, "we do find, as expected, that the report highlights certain program practices that require rethinking and, in some instances, revision."