Juvenile Justice Coalition

Speaking Out with Ohio's Youth

Author: JJC Administrator

Juvenile Justice Advocates Express Concern about Youth in Shelter Care & Non-Secure Residential Facilities in Letter to Juvenile Stakeholders (April 4, 2020)

COLUMBUS – The ACLU of Ohio, Center for Children’s Law and Policy, Children’s Law Center, Juvenile Justice Coalition, National Association of Social Workers-Ohio Chapter, and Policy Matters Ohio sent a letter to Director Gies of the Ohio Department of Youth Services, Director Hall of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, juvenile judges, and court administrators to express concern about youth in shelter care and non-secure residential facilities being unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19. The organizations acknowledged and thanked Director Gies for recent transparency efforts to publicize information about youth in detention and correctional facilities across the state, but urge immediate action steps for all-systems involved youth.

Continue reading at ACLUOhio.org

Ohio Prison & Youth Facilities Now Providing Daily Updates Re: COVID-19 Following Coalition Request (March 26, 2020)

COLUMBUS – Amid public pressure for enhanced transparency, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS), complied with advocacy groups’ request for daily, public report-outs on the COVID-19 situation in Ohio’s prisons and youth facilities.

Continue reading at ACLUOhio.org

Ohio Advocacy Groups Urge Ongoing Transparency Regarding COVID-19 Concerns in Prisons and Youth Facilities (March 24, 2020)

COLUMBUS – Today the ACLU of Ohio, Americans for Prosperity-Ohio, Juvenile Justice Coalition, the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Ohio Student Association, and Policy Matters Ohio sent a letter to Governor DeWine, ODRC Director Chambers-Smith, and DYS Director Gies with three sets of questions about the COVID-19 crisis and Ohio’s incarcerated population.

Continue reading at ACLUOhio.org

Juvenile Justice Coalition of Ohio Statement on Death in Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility

Columbus, OH, August 31 2020 — Following the death of a young person in Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility (CJCF), Kenza Kamal, Policy Director at the Juvenile Justice Coalition of Ohio (JJC) released the following statement:

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of a young person in the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility. This death is a tragedy for our community, and we extend our condolences to his family and friends. It is already unimaginable to be separated from your loved ones and placed in a system that inflicts more damage than good, and knowing his loved ones and fellow incarcerated youth are enduring a loss in those conditions is even more devastating.

“It is also troubling that the Ohio Department of Youth Services decided to disclose his charge to the public. This practice must end, and we ask that the privacy of youth and families is protected.

“We call for a thorough and transparent investigation and for CJCF to ensure counselors are available to young people in the facility and his family.”

 

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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.

Ohio spends $185,303 to incarcerate youth annually

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.

For Black Lives to Matter, We Must #FreeOurYouth

Juvenile Justice Coalition demand release of detained and incarcerated Ohio youth 

Columbus, OH, July 16, 2020 — Last month, one of the mothers that works with the Juvenile Justice Coalition (JJC), a state-wide advocacy organization that works with Ohio youth who are at-risk of involvement or involved in the juvenile court system, celebrated the freedom of her child from detention in Franklin County after recovering from COVID-19. The teenager was incarcerated in November for his family’s inability to pay bond and remained in the detention center for eight months. Although bail is used sparingly in the juvenile justice system in Ohio, research shows the cash bail system is constructed to be harmful to those who are Black, Latinx, and poor. In May, he joined the long list of youth who contracted COVID-19 in juvenile facilities. The disparate impact of the COVID-19 crisis on communities of color is closely tied to the systemic racism of  the criminal legal system.

“Seeing one of our young people home with their family and with their support system breathes life into this movement for Black lives. It is a beautiful reminder that we can free our youth, and free ourselves,” said Tammy Fornier-Alsaada, JJC’s lead organizer.

In a statement from the young person’s mother, she said:

My child was forgotten in the state’s COVID-19 response, and he just sat there lost in the system.

I’m extremely frustrated because I’d been pleading with the Franklin County Detention Center to release my child so he could socially distance safely at home with me. Like many in the youth justice system, he has mental health issues and pre-existing conditions like asthma that make him very vulnerable during this time. He was also pretrial, so I’m not sure why he needed to be held when he is innocent in the eyes of the law.

He suffered through what was essentially solitary confinement for over 14 days and received very few showers and food. And the medical care has been very poor so it’s obvious the facility can not properly care for children.

My son is better off with me where I can watch over him. And in the meantime, I need facilities to be more transparent and share consistent updates on how they plan to protect youth behind bars.”

As the pandemic worsens, JJC is continuing to demand the release of youth who are currently detained or incarcerated in both state and local facilities in Ohio, stopping the arrest or incarceration of additional youth, and giving detained youth fully free access to phone and video communication with their families and support systems, amongst other recommendations.

 

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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.

Youth at Risk as First Staff Tests Positive for COVID-19 at Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center (May 5, 2020)

Columbus, OH, May 5, 2020 — This week, the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center reported its first positive staff cases of COVID-19. These test results now follow the recent news that the virus has started to spread in an Ohio youth prison, with 21 youth and nine staff testing positive in Cuyahoga Hills JCF at the latest count.

“Positive staff cases should sound the alarm bells. The virus can only get into facilities if it is brought in, and detained youth cannot socially distance from staff, meaning the young people inside have now been exposed and endangered,” said Aramis Sundiata, Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Coalition

In March, following the urging of the ACLU of Ohio and advocacy groups including the Juvenile Justice Coalition, the Department of Youth Services began publishing daily COVID-19 data. There is currently no similar transparency from juvenile jails across the state. “If they wait until their first positive test to take action, it will be too late. Local juvenile facilities must report what steps they’ve taken to reduce their population and improve conditions, and Governor DeWine and DYS must direct these facilities to do so,” said Kenza Kamal, Policy Director at the Juvenile Justice Coalition.

“Just isolating youth is not a solution, as that creates solitary confinement-like conditions which are especially dangerous and traumatic for young people,” Kamal added.

Research shows that incarceration is harmful to young people and that Black, Native, and Latinx youth are overrepresented in the system. “When the children who are locked away are disproportionately of color, that means releasing youth is not only a matter of public health, but of racial justice,” concluded Sundiata.

JJC recommends releasing youth who are currently detained or incarcerated and halting the arrest or incarceration of additional youth. While in-person visitations and programs are suspended, youth should not be charged to access phone and video communication with their families and support systems. For youth on probation, any probation conditions which require travel, social interaction, and which cost the families, should not be enforced in order to reduce virus exposure and financial burden. For youth in state facilities, the ACLU of Ohio and JJC demand the state test all youth, release all youth to community-based alternatives starting with the most medically vulnerable, and publish the number of youth who have been released and the criteria DYS has been using to determine release eligibility.

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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.

COVID-19 Endangers Incarcerated Youth (March 20, 2020)

Columbus, OH, March 20, 2020 — On Thursday, March 19th the Juvenile Justice Coalition delivered a letter to Governor DeWine, co-signed by the ACLU of Ohio and Policy Matters Ohio, requesting the creation of a plan to protect young people inside the juvenile justice system from the spread of COVID-19. Ohio joined 22 other states in urging their governors and juvenile justice system administrators to reduce the fatal harm being caused by the novel coronavirus.

The letter outlines three strategies to ensure that facilities are as empty and safe as possible: reduce the population of young people in state and local facilities, mitigate the impacts on youth while they await release, and reduce consequences of probation.

JJC recommends releasing youth who are currently detained or incarcerated and halting the arrest or incarceration of additional youth. While in-person visitations and programs are suspended, youth should not be charged to access phone and video communication with their families and support systems. For youth on probation, any probation conditions which require travel, social interaction, and which cost the families, should not be enforced in order to reduce virus exposure and financial burden.

“The governor has taken steps to protect children and families by closing schools, but children behind bars can’t engage in social distancing or other safe practices. Some adult courts in counties across Ohio are doing the right thing by reducing their jail populations but we need to be doing the same in the juvenile system, and quickly,” concluded JJC Executive Director, Aramis Sundiata.

Research shows that incarcerated populations are most at risk during a public health crisis. As COVID-19 spreads quickly in enclosed spaces, such as cruise ships and nursing homes, it can spread just as quickly in detention centers, prisons and jails, and facilities are not equipped to handle the medical needs of youth if a COVID-19 outbreak should occur inside a juvenile detention or correctional facility

“Children should not be incarcerated to begin with. Leaving them in these conditions, during a pandemic unlike anything we’ve ever seen, should not even be an option,” added Kenza Kamal, JJC Policy Director.

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