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History of OAPSA

The Ohio Association of Pretrial Services

A Brief History


The Ohio Association of Pretrial Services that we celebrate today is actually the second incarnation of OAPSA.  The original OAPSA was established in 1974.  The history of that OAPSA was recorded on a brochure that the association published in 1980.  The 1980 brochure lists 26 members and states the Association was “committed to finding and promoting alternatives to prosecution and incarceration, promulgating the treatment of accused offenders within a community setting, dedicated to promoting the development, continuation and expansion of Pretrial Services in Ohio…”

The brochure goes on to detail how the Association first met at an informal luncheon inClevelandin 1974.  These luncheon gatherings grew as LEAA (Law Enforcement Administration Act) funds increased, thus spurring growth of community based criminal justice programs.  The first formal organizational meeting was held in December 1976 with six pretrial agencies represented.

A follow up meeting was held in January 1977, where those present decided to draft by-laws and proceed with the formal establishment of a pretrial association.   By March of that year a draft of a constitution was completed, and fifteen agencies were represented at a meeting held inDelawareto discuss this constitution and elect the first slate of officers.   The Association was incorporated as a non-profit in 1978.

By 1980 the “first” OAPSA had been instrumental in the passage of state legislation regarding pretrial diversion in the Common Pleas Courts.  They had also sponsored a two-day training seminar for program administrators that attracted participants from as far away asNew Mexico, and continued to have regular statewide meetings.  

Unfortunately, the criminal justice world was changing and those present in 1980 did not foresee what the end of LEAA funding would mean.  Many programs were dependent on this funding and when it expired they expired as well.   A few programs managed to hang on with local funding but the lack of funding and the “get tough on crime” mentality of the 1980’s spelled the end of OAPSA.

Those programs that did manage to hang on talked to each other sporadically, but only saw each other in person at the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies conferences.  At several of those conferences discussions about reviving OAPSA were held among Ohio Pretrial Practitioners that OAPSA be revived.  One such discussion was held at the 1990 NAPSA conference inSt. Paul,Minnesota, with the difference being that when those present returned toOhio, they followed up on that conversation.

Following a series of phone calls, an initial organizational meeting was held May 11, 1991, followed up by meetings on July 25 and October 7, 1991.  The October 7 meeting took place at the NAPSA conference inLexington,Kentucky.   In November, OAPSA petitioned NAPSA for start up funds to help make the new OAPSA a reality.  

Then NAPSA president George Moriarty informed OAPSA that we were awarded $500 in start up funds in January of 1992.  These funds were used to mail out notices, start a treasury, and hold an annual meeting in July of that year.   At the July 23, 1992 meeting the first officers were announced, and Hamilton (President Wendy Huebner Niehaus), Cuyahoga (Vice President Dan Peterca), Summit (Secretary Anne Gatti and At Large Board Member Doug Jenney), Lucas (at Large Board Member Mike Collins), and Montgomery (Treasurer Yolanda Simmons and At Large Board Member Thom Muhleman) counties were all represented.  At the time OAPSA had 22 members and a balance of $695.00 in the treasury. 

Although there were quarterly and annual meetings, the first “conference” was held May 19, 1993 in a small crowded back room at the Days Inn inColumbus.  Then President Wendy Heubner Niehaus gave an impassioned speech about OAPSA’s resurrection and what this meant to those of us that had survived the lean years of the 1980’s with limited opportunities to meet with others who cared about pretrial justice.  The minutes from that day state that “The President concluded her remarks by voicing her belief that if we all made a personal commitment to OAPSA and work together we can make a real difference in the criminal justice system inOhio”.

President Niehaus had a unique perspective as she was the only person in attendance that day that had also been a member of the original OAPSA.  She wrote a letter welcoming members that day, and a copy follows this brief history.

Through the 1990’s and beyond OAPSA has continued to play a role inOhioas well as on the national stage.  We have continued our state conferences, often inColumbus, but also at venues such as Burr Oak andDeerCreekState Park, Sugar Creek,Akron,CincinnatiandCleveland.   OAPSA is a Trustee Organization of Ohio Justice Alliance for Community Corrections (OJACC) and a member of the Court Personnel Education and Training Committee of the Supreme Court of Ohio.  

On the national stage, the Supreme Court of Ohio was instrumental in supporting OAPSA’s hosting the 1995 NAPSA conference inCincinnatiby awarding OAPSA Byrne Memorial Federal Grant Funds to support the conference and bring in faculty.  OAPSA again was involved in hosting the 2007 NAPSA Conference inCleveland.

In addition to being active as an association on the national stage, many of OAPSA’s Members have been active as well.   Members have served on both the NAPSA Release and Diversion Standards committees, the NAPSA Diversion Committee and the NAPSA Board.  OAPSA members have also been honored by NAPSA for their contributions to the pretrial field – NAPSA has named Wendy Huebner Niehaus, Dan Peterca and Anne Gatti as Members of the year, and two OAPSA members – Susan Brannen and Greg Johnson – have received NAPSA’s highest honor, the Ennis J. Olgiati Award.

Those present at the 1990 NAPSA conference, where the idea of reviving OAPSA was voiced, had no idea that 23 years later OAPSA would be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our first state wide conference.  As the “new” OAPSA begins its third decade, challenges still remain.  But just as President Niehaus wrote in her letter welcoming members to that first OAPSA conference “Pretrial Services: Where We Came From, Where Are We Now and Where Are We Going”  —