Advocates urge shifting resources from incarceration to investing in youth

Columbus, OH — Today, the Juvenile Justice Coalition of Ohio (JJC) called on Governor Mike DeWine and state legislators to shift resources away from incarceration to investing in youth in their communities in light of new data released by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) that shows Ohio spends $185,303 annually to incarcerate one young person. A majority of these young people are Black, as Black youth are five times more likely than white youth to be incarcerated, even as rates of youth incarceration are declining across the nation.

In comparison, Ohio only spends $12,102 annually to educate a young person. Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars every year on police budgets and locking up young people, Ohio should prioritize helping young people. Local leaders can instead invest resources that will place young people in healthier living arrangements, with access to good public education, and in a job with a living wage, rather than behind bars, in solitary confinement and at risk of COVID-19.

“Ohio spends millions of dollars on a system that hurts people. Criminalizing youth contributes to the cycle of poverty that traps people and families, especially those who are Black and brown, disabled, LGBTQ+, and low-income. Incarceration and detention does not improve the conditions of a child or teen’s life which actually lead to better outcomes, such as housing, education, mental and physical healthcare, and financial stability,” said Kenza Kamal, Policy Director, Juvenile Justice Coalition. “When policymakers invest in punishment, they are choosing to sacrifice the safety and wellbeing of our communities. Ohio has a huge opportunity to take the millions of dollars we spend on locking up our youth and invest those dollars into services that actually support and divert them from the court system.”

Ohio cannot afford the continued exorbitant cost to incarcerate youth, which inflicts more damage than good, and increases the likelihood that they will end up in the adult criminal justice system. No one understands that better than Davion, who was jailed as a child, pulled into the juvenile system at the age of 11. Now, at 22, he is incarcerated in the adult system.

“For over 10 years of my life I have been dealing with the jail system on and off. It has put more traumatizing effects on my life than recovering effects. The system only breaks down the mind of a teen and worsens them…they always tell us that of the youth who get released, there’s an 80% reoffender rate. When you realize the odds were put against you in life and the whole thing revolves around money, it’s even more devastating not only for me to be in the situation, but for my loved ones and friends who are dealing with this crisis,” said Davion. “When I found out how much money Ohio spends per teenager on locking us up, it made me want to cry. The state has robbed me of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent on incarcerating me for years, which on my end I never felt like they used it in the right way.”

Sticker Shock 2020: The Cost of Youth Incarceration        

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Juvenile Justice Coalition is a statewide organization that works through policy advocacy and with Ohio youth and families who are at risk of involvement or involved in the juvenile court system.