The Juvenile Justice Coalition (Ohio) (JJC) was formed in 1993 to advocate for youth involved in the juvenile justice system in Ohio.
For 20 years, JJC operated as an entirely volunteer community organization and played an active role in juvenile justice advocacy, including being part of many of Ohio’s signature juvenile justice changes such as:
- Advocating for RECLAIM Ohio (Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternatives to the Incarceration of Minors Ohio). RECLAIM Ohio is a funding initiative that encourages juvenile courts to develop a range of community-based options to meet the needs of each juvenile offender or youth at risk of offending instead of placing youth in juvenile correctional facilities.
- Convening various groups of advocates to coordinate positions on juvenile justice issues, such as juvenile sentencing legislation, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) reauthorization, and juvenile sex offender registry reform efforts (SB3 and SB10).
- Coordinating an Ohio assessment of legal representation for indigent youth in Ohio published in March 2003 in partnership with the Children’s Law Center.
- Organizing a community education project to make youth and families more aware of their rights in the juvenile justice system as an outgrowth of the above assessment.
- Organizing several conferences in the 1990s to promote juvenile justice system reform, including expanding community-based alternatives to incarceration and reducing disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system.
- Representing Ohio in the National Juvenile Justice Network along with Voices for Ohio’s Children.
Into the 21st century:
With a generous grant from the Gund Foundation, we began to hire staff that would offer stability for the youth, including paid youth interns. This consistent staffing has created a safe space for youth to become leaders in their own right.
Unfortunately, in 2019, JJC experienced a tremendous loss with the disappearance and death of Amber Evans, who became the Executive Director in January 2019. Amber’s beautifully powerful voice is incredibly missed and the circumstances surrounding her untimely death have led JJC to center self-care and reevaluate all of our work through this lens.
In recent years, we have aimed to do so much more than what we originally set out to achieve. We have been working tirelessly to make juvenile facilities more accountable, create systems of support inside and outside of the youth prison complex, and create meaningful relationships with directly affected youth while empowering other youth to become leaders in the fight for decarceration.
Our youth leadership team, Voices of the Unheard, has done unbelievable work in organizing campaigns in the past and will begin the #FreeOurselves campaign in 2021.
We have collectively worked to end the criminalization of school truancy, to limit police presence inside school buildings, to end indiscriminate shackling of youth prisoners in court settings, to create community-based alternatives to prison, to help bring an end to life without parole for Ohio youth, and to create a media presence that informs the general public about issues regarding youth incarceration in Ohio and beyond.
We proudly support and help in school related justice issues as well, such as helping pass HB 410 which works to decriminalize truancy and supporting #CounselorsNotCuffs, which successfully removed the police presence from Columbus Public Schools.
We have also been active in leading rallies, marches, and rebellions in the face of the indiscriminate murder of unarmed Black men by the police. Our media presence has solidified our organization in the public eye as a force for good and equality in these trying times. We will continue our efforts in the coming years to end youth incarceration, rehabilitate and provide security for at-risk youth, and create a safe place for youth voices to shape their own futures.