On October 12, 2004, the Juvenile Justice Coalition, in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Ohio, organized a meeting of representatives from Ohio organizations concerned about children and juvenile justice issues. The catalyst for the meeting was the allegations of abuse in Ohio’s juvenile correctional facilities, brought to light by newspaper investigations and a report prepared by Fred Cohen for the Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS).
Summary of problems:
- Scioto Correctional Facility issues identified in the Cohen report – “Our site visits convinced each team member that there has been and remains a culture of violence among the uniformed staff, that verbal and physical abuse are common, that sexual misconduct by staff occurs, only crisis-type mental health care is available, and structured programming consistent with clearly stated and shared objectives is virtually non-existent.”
- A Federal lawsuit filed in July 2004 by the Children’s Law Center claims that ODYS routinely denies juveniles access to legal help. According to the lawsuit, the Department of Youth Services did not adequately respond to the allegations of abuse, then failed to provide legal assistance despite repeated requests for help.
- Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility (for sexual offenders) – a Columbus Dispatch investigation identified a significant amount of sexual activity among residents and a lack of appropriate treatment/ supervision of residents.
We are very concerned about the problems addressed in the Cohen report related to the safety and appropriate treatment of residents at Scioto Correctional Facility. Furthermore, we have serious concerns about the safety of residents and inadequate programming and treatment at all ODYS facilities. No one is charged with oversight of ODYS facilities. Within the current environment, we question the ability of ODYS to provide adequate care for youngsters in their care. There should be zero tolerance for abuse of residents or the denial of their civil and legal rights.
We hold the Ohio Executive and Legislative branches responsible for the care, protection, and mental and physical development of children in ODYS facilities (Ohio Revised Code Section 2152.01). We would like to meet with you to discuss these issues.