Vast Majority of Ohioans Favor Community-Based Alternatives to Youth Incarceration (3/10/21)

New Poll Shows Strong Bipartisan Support for Rehabilitation Programs Over Placing Young People Behind Bars

Columbus, OH – Today, Youth First Initiative and Juvenile Justice Coalition released a new poll showing a vast majority of Ohioans favor investing in community-based alternatives to youth incarceration. The poll found 81% support for a youth justice system focused on prevention and rehabilitation rather than punishment.

After a year of uprisings for Black lives led significantly by young people, reforming the youth justice system to focus on rehabilitation over punishment continues to have overwhelming support across the country. Across identities, the majority of Americans believe that youth would be best served by community-based supports such as intensive rehabilitation, education, job training and community services, not taken away from their communities and support systems and incarcerated. These beliefs were echoed by Ohioans and support the findings of a new Policy Matters Ohio report which provided a roadmap on how to reduce youth incarceration by fully funding community-based alternatives. 

“Ohio has made very successful strides to reduce youth incarceration over the past few decades, so it’s no surprise that Ohioans believe taking children away from their communities and support systems and placing them behind bars is the wrong approach,” said Kenza Kamal, Policy Director at Juvenile Justice Coalition. “Detention and incarceration only inflicts more harm when what young people need is support, and we know that investing in community-based approaches does just that. The state budget will be decided in a few months, so as our state leaders debate how our money will be spent for the next two years, they must listen to the overwhelming majority of Ohioans calling for an end to youth incarceration. It’s time to put the necessary resources into community programs that will actually meet our young people’s needs rather than pulling them into a never-ending cycle of law enforcement, courts, confinement, and collateral consequences.”

Youth First, a national advocacy organization working to end youth incarceration and reimagine the youth justice system, commissioned the poll conducted by GBAO Strategies.

The survey of 500 adults found that:

  • 88% support treatment and rehabilitation plans that include a youth’s family in planning and services.
  • 84% support increased spending on youth rehabilitation.
  • 83% support providing financial incentives for states and municipalities to invest in alternatives to youth incarceration, such as intensive rehabilitation, education, job training, community services, and programs that provide youth the opportunity to repair harm to victims and communities.
  • 83% support increased spending on social workers and mental health counselors.

The poll found that the majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents favor investing in these and other programs focused on rehabilitation. After learning more about the benefit of community-based programs and the logic behind closing youth prisons, 74% of Ohioans supported a policy to end youth incarceration.

Juvenile Justice Coalition continues to advocate to close Ohio’s youth prisons and reinvest in community-based supports. To view the full poll results, click here.

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