Children’s Defense Fund Ohio releases Status of Ohio’s Children Report

(Plain Press, January 2007) On December 22nd the Columbus based Children’s Defense Fund Ohio released Status of Ohio’s Children: Juvenile Justice for Ohio’s Children?,  the 2006 Ohio KIDS COUNT Data Book, which emphasizes the continued need to focus resources on diverting youth from the state’s correctional system.

“This will not be a happy holiday for over 1700 youth who will be spending their Christmas and New Years locked up in prison,” said Ron Browder, Director of Children’s Defense Fund Ohio.  “Although many of these youth have committed criminal offenses and may have mental health issues that need to be addressed and treated, the present structure of the juvenile justice system does not encourage real rehabilitation. Family contact is key to successful treatment, but most of the youth are sent to institutions far away from home, which means that many of these youth will not have any contact with family this holiday or throughout the year.”

According to the Data Book, the Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternatives to the Incarceration of Minors (RECLAIM) initiative provides funds to county juvenile courts to develop and utilize local alternatives to divert youth from the state system and provides families an opportunity to participate in the youth’s treatment.  This alternative to institutional placement provides a cost savings of $11-$45 per every RECLAIM dollar spent.  And after 3.5 years of program completion, a child is 33% less likely to break the law than youth committed only to DYS institutions.

Unfortunately, in a number of counties the percent of minority youth served by RECLAIM programs was not as high as the percentage of these youth sent to DYS institutions.  Overall, there is a disproportionate minority representation of African-American youth in the juvenile justice system.  Statewide, African-American youth ages 10-19 years represent 15% of the overall population,  but, account for 51% of the youth committed to DYS institutions.  As reported in the Data Book, there have been a number of studies which address the issue of Disproportionate Minority Contact and make recommendations for reducing the racial disparities.  

“It is the charge of the entire community – families, advocacy groups, courts, state and county agencies – to look at the current juvenile justice system and make sure that we are indeed providing justice to these children” said Browder.  “There are several models of community-based programs that should be evaluated for their possible implementation in Ohio.  These community-based options provide a better opportunity for youth to receive needed services, quality interaction with staff, while involving family members in the treatment process.”

For more information contact Ron Browder, Director of the Children’s Defense Fund Ohio at 614-221-2244.

 

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