Blog: Ohio

Juvenile Justice Reform with Tyler the Poodle and More; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Summer Work Program Brings Change; Teens Congratulated for Personal Growth (
    Jackson, Tennessee Mayor Jerry Gist’s Gang Prevention Task Force gave jobs to 43 "at-risk" youth between the ages of 15 and 18 at different locations across Madison County. The young people worked and received mentoring. The county has seen a much lower juvenile arrest rate during this same period.
  • Project to Help Juveniles Make Successful Transition (
    The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission on Tuesday announced the start of a demonstration project to reduce the recidivism and improve the outcomes of juvenile offenders. The project will provide intensive reintegration services to help youth transition back into their communities.
  • Prosecutors Share Details of Juvenile Justice System (
    Juvenile justice is one of the most difficult parts of the law, but a necessary one designed to do what is in the best interests of the children involved.
  • Kids in Court Have a Friend in Tyler the Poodle (
    Tyler [the poodle] is one of thousands of certified pet-therapy dogs nationwide, but rather than visiting people in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, schools or libraries, he helps kids in the juvenile court system.
  • Ohio Delegation Visits NJ To Study Juvenile Detention Reform Efforts (
    A delegation from the state of Ohio including judges, court administrators, representative from the Ohio Department of Youth Services, and other stakeholders, are in New Jersey to attend a two-day working session designed to help Ohio replicate New Jersey’s success in juvenile detention reform.

Children’s Law Center Releases Two Publications on Ohio Youth in the Criminal Justice System

The Children’s Law Center (CLC) recently released a report titled “Falling Through the Cracks: A New Look at Ohio Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System” and an accompanying publication called “In Their Own Words.” The report focuses on youth in Ohio who are transferred to the adult court system or held in adult jails and prisons, while the second document highlights the stories and experiences of eight individuals – four family members and four youth – who have been personally affected by Ohio’s policy of transferring (or binding over) youth to the adult system.
In recent decades, changing Ohio laws have caused more youth to come into contact with the adult criminal justice system. Although the state has more recently taken steps to change this, the current process has resulted in over 300 youth placed in adult courts or adult jails and prisons each year throughout Ohio.

JMATE 2012: Ask a Judge: Demystifying Juvenile Court and How Judges and Treatment Providers Can Partner Together Successfully

Earlier this afternoon, I sat in on a JMATE panel with three juvenile court judges who discussed how Reclaiming Futures works in their courts and why other courts should consider implementing the model. 
Judge Anthony Capizzi of Dayton, Ohio, began the presentation with the problem: too many teens today are struggling with drugs, alcohol and crime. Eighty percent of the youth Judge Capizzi sees have alcohol or other drug problems and many are self medicating. And this is not unique to Ohio.
As a juvenile court judge, Judge Capizzi finds that treatment helps reduce recidivism, saves money and builds safer communities. BUT most juvenile courts are not set up to detect and treat substance abuse or provide mental health services. And this is where the six step Reclaiming Futures model comes in. Under the Reclaiming Futures model, court teams are set up with a judge, probation officer, treatment provider and community members. The teams work together to make sure that kids are screened for alcohol and other drugs at intake and sent to treatment when needed.

Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Requiring Youth Sex Offenders to Register for Life

Earlier today, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down part of a law mandating certain youth sex offenders to register for life, because the punishment is cruel and unusual.
Under Ohio's Adam Walsh Act, teens classified as the most dangerous sex offenders must register - for the rest of their lives - with law enformencement and have their photos, addresses and criminal histories distributed to neighbors and schools.
In a 5-2 opinion, Ohio's Supreme Court ruled the punishment violates both Ohio and US constitutions because it is cruel and unusual and because it violates a defendant's right to due process. 
From the Associated Press:

Not only is the requirement unconstitutional, it also defeats the purpose of the juvenile court system, Justice Paul Pfeifer said, writing for the majority.
The mandatory registration "undercuts the rehabilitative purpose of Ohio's juvenile system and eliminates the important role of the juvenile court's discretion in the disposition of juvenile offenders and thus fails to meet the due process requirement of fundamental fairness," Pfeifer wrote.
He also said it defeats another goal of the juvenile court system: cloaking children in confidentiality and allowing them to avoid stigma once they have served their time in the juvenile system and become adults.
"Confidentiality promotes rehabilitation by allowing the juvenile to move into adulthood without the baggage of youthful mistakes," Pfeifer said. "Public exposure of those mistakes brands the juvenile as an undesirable wherever he goes."

Are we reducing crime by limiting the use of incarceration?

When casual readers of the news media search for stories about juvenile crime and justice today, they find a lot of good news. Other than the perennial media coverage of individual crimes and victimization, an online search about juvenile justice today generates dozens of stories about states uncovering abuses in their youth corrections systems, reducing their rates of juvenile incarceration and increasing their reliance on community-based programs for young offenders.
Many of these stories refer to the ongoing decline in crime and violence as possible proof that these changes in policy and practice are improving public safety. But, a prudent reader will stop to ask about the direction of causality in these explanations. Are we reducing crime by limiting the use of incarceration, or is incarceration down because crime is down? The question is more than a topic for academic study. We need to consider our answer carefully if we hope to sustain these recent improvements over the long term.
The number of juvenile offenders being held in secure correctional institutions has been falling nationwide. Advocates in the juvenile justice field welcome this reform because reductions in the use of secure confinement allow state and local jurisdictions to intervene with young offenders in their own homes and communities, which is less costly and can be more effective than incarceration in reducing recidivism and preventing crime.
My colleague Douglas Evans and I recently reviewed the most prominent juvenile correctional reform models from the past 40 years, and we concluded that some models of reform were likely to be more sustainable than others. Specifically, we recommended the "realignment" approach now being implemented in California and those established in Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan since 2000.

Reclaiming Futures in Ohio

In Ohio, Reclaiming Futures fellow Carol Martin was featured in the Logan Daily News Reporter for her work to combat drug abuse by providing educational materials to local educators and agencies.
After learning about local teen drug abuse, Carol ordered booklets from the Foundation for a Drug-Free World (which you can request here) and began bringing them to schools. The booklets detail each kind of drug, its nicknames, and short and long term effects on the human body and mind. It also includes information on what happens when teens combine drugs and other substances.
From the article:

Carol Martin, a member of Reclaiming Futures, a community coalition designed to mentor and assist youth in the community, says she believes the materials will be useful to both educators and parents. “I thought it would be great for the schools, and it’s a different way than just sitting and talking about drugs,” she said.

After using the booklets in North Carolina, that state saw a 40% decrease in the number of deaths or accidental poisonings, and Carol is hopeful that they will have a similar effect in Ohio. 
Great job, Carol! Keep up the good work and please keep us updated on your progress.