JJC believes that systems that work with youth – including juvenile courts and schools – must fundamentally shift from a punitive, punishment-based approach to a restorative approach. Restorative approaches hold youth meaningfully accountable while helping them to learn life skills like conflict resolution and problem-solving and building community. JJC staff is trained in and uses restorative practices regularly both internally and externally with other stakeholders.
Each year Ohio spends $230 million just at the state level on youth involved in 95,000 status offense and delinquency cases in Ohio’s juvenile courts. While Ohio collects some data on these cases, the data is very piecemeal. Comprehensive state level data is available on only 5% of the 95,000 cases reported to the Ohio Supreme Courts by local courts.
In June 2016, JJC released a report entitled Denied Existence: The Untold Stories of 90,000 Cases in Ohio’s Juvenile Courts. The report examined publicly available annual reports issued by Ohio’s juvenile courts, finding that the reports varied significantly between counties, making any comparison extremely difficult. The report includes recommendations to improve data collection, including choosing a state entity to collect data, creating uniform data collection, giving courts tools to collect data, and making data publicly available. Use the following links to access the report, executive summary, and an accompanying infographic. The report release was covered by stories in cleveland.com and on Columbus’s 10TV.
HB 410: Changing Ohio’s Truancy and School Discipline Laws
In December 2016, the Ohio General Assembly passed HB 410 with strong bipartisan support. HB 410 is fully effective in the 2017-2018 school year and will work to reengage thousands of students who miss school by helping them get reconnected to school and on the path to success. The bill also will use the court system as a last resort for dealing with students who miss school. This achievement was a hard-fought victory and a team effort. To learn more about HB 410, visit our dedicated HB 410 website here.
In Ohio, juvenile court judges must transfer certain youth under the age of 18 to the adult court system if they are charged with – not convicted of – certain offenses and a juvenile court judge finds probable cause (a very low legal standard) that the youth’s actions match the charges. Data indicates that the majority of the average 170 youth bound over to adult court are mandatory bindovers. In Fiscal Year 2016, 168 youth were bound over to adult court. 80% of youth sent to adult court were Black boys, despite the fact that Black youth only make up 18% of Ohio’s youth population. Only 26 of these bindovers (15%) were for youth charged with murder or attempted murder.
JJC is working with partners across the state to eliminate mandatory bindover.
Community-Based Alternatives to Incarceration
Since 1992, Ohio’s youth prison population topped 2,500 and was projected to rise to 4,000. In 1994, Ohio began implementing programs to incentivize local courts to keep youth closer to home. Today less than 500 youth are admitted to Ohio youth prisons each year and Ohio makes significant investments in redirecting youth to community-based alternatives that are less expensive and more effective than locked facilities.
In October 2015, the Juvenile Justice Coalition released the Bring Youth Home report on Ohio’s deincarceration programs for other states to use as they create new or reevaluate existing deincarceration programs as well as to encourage continued innovation in Ohio. Use the following links to read the report, an executive summary, and an accompanying infographic. The report was covered extensively in the media, including a front page story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and by NPR, the Huffington Post, the Toledo Blade, Columbus TV Channel NBC4, Dayton TV Channel WDTN, and the Associated Press. In addition, JJC was interviewed for a BlogTalkRadio show.
Indiscriminate Shackling of Children in Juvenile Courts
On July 1, 2016 , the Ohio Supreme Court implemented a rule that ends Ohio’s policy of indiscriminately shackling children in Ohio’s juvenile courts. Instead, children can only be shackled in court when they pose a significant risk of harm or escape.
Before the adoption of the rule, certain youth who came before juvenile courts were routinely and indiscriminately shackled – including handcuffs, belly chains, and ankle cuffs. Shackling is harmful; it can impair the ability of youth to communicate and participate in his or her defense, be traumatic, and cause psychological harm. With the adoption of the rule, Ohio joins over 20 jurisdictions have stopped indiscriminate shackling with no increase in safety and security threats after changing their policies.
JJC worked with other partners to help affect this change, including submitting a comment to the Court that included input from Ohio youth .