VICTORIES – Ohio Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Youth in Adult Court!
On December 22nd, the Ohio Supreme Court issued two opinions on Ohio youth in adult court. In State v. Aalim, the Court found that Ohio’s mandatory bindover laws, which allow 16 and 17 year olds charged with certain crimes to be directly transferred to adult court, are unconstitutional. Now all bindovers of youth to adult court must include an individualized hearing that allows a juvenile court judge to consider the unique circumstances of each case. JJC signed an amicus brief in the Aalim case.
In State v. Moore, the Court found that youth sentenced to adult court in non-homicide offenses cannot be given a sentence that would allow them to die in prison. Under Moore, youth would have to receive a sentence that allows them a meaningful chance of parole
VICTORY – Ohio Legislature Passes HB 410!
On December 8th, the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate passed HB 410 out of the Ohio legislature with strong bipartisan support. The bill now goes to Governor Kasich’s desk for signature. HB 410 will work to reengage thousands of students who miss school and help get them reconnected to school and on the path to success. The bill also will use the court system as a last resort for dealing with students who miss school. Finally, the bill requires the State Board of Education to create a model school discipline before the next school year.
This achievement was a hard-fought victory and a team effort. Thank you for all of you who weighed in and contributed to this success for Ohio’s students! Learn more about HB 410 by reading this two-pager on Ohio’s school discipline and truancy laws and a summary of HB 410 as passed by both the Ohio Senate and House. **Update: The passage of HB 410 was covered by cleveland.com and picked up by the Associated Press.
JJC Releases Report on Lack of Data Collection in Ohio’s Juvenile Courts
Today JJC released a report entitled “Denied Existence: The Untold Stories of 90,000 Cases in Ohio’s Juvenile Courts.” The report addresses the troubling lack of data on cases in Ohio’s juvenile courts. Each year Ohio spends $230 million just at the state level on youth involved in 95,000 status offense and delinquency cases in Ohio’s juvenile courts.
While Ohio collects some data on these cases, the data is very piecemeal. Comprehensive state level data is available on only 5% of the 95,000 cases reported to the Ohio Supreme Courts by local courts. Ohio law requires juvenile courts to release annual reports, but a first-time, independent analysis by JJC found that less than half of Ohio’s juvenile courts have publicly available reports and the reports were too different from county to county to glean more than very basic data. The report includes recommendations to improve data collection, including choosing a state entity to collect data, creating uniform data collection, giving courts tools to collect data, and making data publicly available.
Ohio Legislature Holds Hearings on SB 272 for Developmentally Appropriate Parole Standards
Both the Senate Government and Oversight Reform Committee and the House Judiciary Committee have held hearings on SB 272, which would modify parole standards for individuals sentenced to life in prison for an offense committed before the age of 18. SB 272 would call on the parole board to take developmental considerations into account when considering whether to parole someone who was a youth at the time of their offense. SB 272 was supported by the members of the Ohio Sentencing Commission, of which JJC is a member, and currently has bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. A summary of SB 272 is available here.
VICTORY! – Ohio Supreme Court Adopts Rule Ending the Indiscriminate Shackling of Children in Juvenile Courts
In March 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court adopted a rule that ends Ohio’s policy of indiscriminately shackling children in Ohio’s juvenile courts. Instead, children can only be shackled in court when they pose a significant risk of harm or escape. The new rule goes into effect on July 1, 2016.
Before the adoption of the rule, certain youth who come before juvenile courts were routinely and indiscriminately shackled – including handcuffs, belly chains, and ankle cuffs. Shackling is harmful; it can impair the ability of youth to communicate and participate in his or her defense, be traumatic, and cause psychological harm. With the adoption of the rule, Ohio joins over 20 jurisdictions have stopped indiscriminate shackling with no increase in safety and security threats after changing their policies.
Thank you to everyone who submitted a comment! To view JJC’s comment – which included input from Ohio youth – click here.
JJC Testifies Before the Ohio Legislature’s Multi-System Youth Committee
On March 16, 2016, JJC Executive Director Erin Davies testified before the Ohio Legislature’s Multi-System Youth Committee (MSY Committee). The MSY Committee was created in the 2015 budget and is tasked with identifying best practices and making recommendations to better serve Ohio youth who are involved in multiple state systems, including child welfare, mental health and substance abuse, developmental disabilities, and the juvenile courts.
JJC has been working in partnership with other Ohio organizations listed in the budget language that cover services provided to youth and families in each of these systems and was pleased to open the hearing, introduce the panel, and provide information on youth in juvenile court system. Read JJC’s testimony here.
JJC Issues Report on Ohio’s Deincarceration Programs
On October 26. 2015, the Juvenile Justice Coalition released a report on Ohio’s deincarceration programs. Since 1992, Ohio’s youth prison population topped 2,500 and was projected to rise to 4,000. In 1994, Ohio began implementing programs to incentivize local courts to keep youth closer to home. Today admissions to Ohio juvenile correctional facilities are lower than 500 youth and Ohio makes significant investments in redirecting youth to community-based alternatives that are less expensive and more effective than locked facilities.
The report is designed to give other jurisdictions insights into lessons learned in Ohio as they create new or reevaluate existing deincarceration programs as well as to continue to encourage innovate within Ohio. Use the following links to read the report, an executive summary, and an accompanying infographic.
**Update: JJC’s Bring Youth Home report has been covered extensively in the media, including a front page story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and by NPR, the Huffington Post, the Toledo Blade, Columbus TV Channel NBC4, Dayton TV Channel WDTN, and the Associated Press. In addition, JJC was interviewed for a BlogTalkRadio show.**