MANSFIELD -- Mansfield Municipal Court judges Jerry Ault and Frank Ardis have seen much progress in the 17 years since creation of one of the state's first court for criminal offenders with mental health issues.
"Before I became judge, I was an assistant (county) prosecutor for 21 years," Ault said. "That's how felony work goes -- you don't speak with defendants and don't get to hear what they are saying."
As a judge, he was able to hear the issues individuals were having.
"You get pleas from them, get to ask them, 'why?' " he said.
Through being a judge, he discovered a significant amount of offenders have mental health issues.
In 2002, he opened the third Mental Health Court in Ohio helping mostly misdemeanor offenders get the treatment they needed and getting their life back on track, he said.
On Wednesday, 10 new mental health graduates shook hands with the board members and judges.
"Over the last period of time that it took for you to get here, you created a plan," said Kym Lamb, a new mental health board member. "If you are having trouble with your plan, don't be afraid to ask others for help."
Ault said the graduation rate was about 68 percent for those who enter the mental health court. Graduates have cut their recidivism by half of the average offender's rate as well.