The role of families in supporting incarcerated youth in Ohio

In March of 2010, I wrote a piece for Reclaiming Futures about the importance of family for youth in the juvenile justice system and highlighted the Juvenile Relational Inquiry Tool (JRIT). I write with an exciting update that the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) is the first juvenile justice agency to take the tool state-wide with the support of training and technical assistance from Vera’s Family Justice Program.

DYS’s innovation around family engagement was recently highlighted at OJJDP’s annual conference. More detailed research from the first year of Vera’s partnership with DYS—specifically the roll out of the JRIT at two facilities—is now available. The research brief describes the motivation and emotional support families provide to youth, the cost associated with staying in touch during incarceration and reactions of juvenile correctional officers to incorporating the JRIT into their practice.

Vera’s initial findings suggest that the JRIT has the potential to build rapport between youth and security staff. When the JRIT is implemented by juvenile justice systems that are making a concerted effort to create a culture that values families, youth can have more opportunities to draw on and engage the external resources available to them as they plan to return home.
I will continue to update Reclaiming Futures as we learn more about this project and others with regard to the value of family for incarcerated youth.

juvenile-justice-reform_Ryan-Shanahan-at-Vera-Institute-of-JusticeRyan Shanahan is a senior program associate for the Family Justice Program at the Vera Institute of Justice. Before joining Vera, she was a project director at Family Justice and helped develop tools that allow staff at juvenile justice agencies and community-based organizations to gather information about youth and their social supports. Ryan has worked with youth-serving agencies in Philadelphia, Queens, and Washington, D.C. She has a master of arts from the University of Maryland’s Department of Women’s Studies, where she is working toward a doctorate on the impact of race and racism on young people’s experiences in the sex trade.

Updated: March 21 2018