probation: Teen boy playing basketball outdoors

JDAI Shifts Focus to Overhauling Probation, Increasing Diversion

When the Annie E. Casey Foundation launched the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) in the tough-on-crime era of the early 1990s, politicians were labeling teenage offenders “superpredators” and states were passing laws making it easier to prosecute kids as adults. Rates of juvenile detention were skyrocketing.

How Ohio’s Restore Court Focuses on Helping Sex Trafficked Youth

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) has recently received much needed attention, but is by no means a new issue. Researchers have tried to approximate the scope of the problem, but it has proven extremely difficult to produce an accurate estimate of children who are victims of or at risk for CSEC in the U.S. State-level prevalence rates are equally difficult to produce, but a recent report estimated that more than 1,000 U.S.-born minors are sex trafficked in Ohio annually and thousands more are at risk for victimization.

These Approaches Help Young Fathers Leaving the Criminal Justice System

Becoming a father for the first time can be difficult for anyone, but when you do so in your teens or early 20s and have been incarcerated, it can be overwhelming. The right supports — stable housing, reliable networks, ties to employment, knowing how to build skills in fatherhood and healthy relationships — are essential.

Ohio Legislators Propose Bill Giving Kids the Right to Counsel in Interrogations

Earlier this month, in a narrow 4-3 decision, the Ohio state Supreme Court ruled juveniles are not entitled to the many of the same legal protections as adults, including the right to counsel during police interrogations that occur before charges are filed. Now, several state legislators are responding, proposing a law that would overrule the high court’s decision. Ohio state Minority Whip Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard, a Columbus-area Democrat, began drafting the proposed bill a year before the Oct. 3 Supreme Court ruling, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reports. The General Assembly proposal, co-sponsored by Rep. Ross McGregor, a Republican from Springfield, requires juveniles be informed of their right to counsel – either with an attorney or a parent or guardian – prior to police interrogations.

Ohio Juvenile Sex Offender Ruling Spotlights National Policy

Juvenile sex offenders in Ohio will no longer be required to register as sex offenders for life, the state’s Supreme Court ruled last week. The 5-2 decision ruled the lifetime requirement is cruel and unusual punishment, reigniting a national debate on how young people convicted of certain sexual offenses should fare under the criminal justice system. The majority opinion found certain parts of the Ohio Adam Walsh Act enacted in 2008 unconstitutional. Many states expanded laws pertaining to juvenile sex offenders following federal legislation in 2006 that sought to standardize how young sex offenders were classified and registered across the nation. “Registration and notification requirements frustrate two of the fundamental elements of juvenile rehabilitation: confidentiality and the avoidance of stigma,” Ohio Justice Paul Pfiefer wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

UPDATE: Three Dead After Ohio School Shooting

Three students are dead and two others injured after another student opened fire in an Ohio high school. The alleged gunman has been identified as 17-year-old Thomas “TJ” Lane. He was described as an outcast by other students, according to WKYC, an NBC affiliate in Cleveland. The victims were in the Chardon High School cafeteria when the shots were fired just after 7:30 a.m, WKYC reports. A teacher chased the alleged gunman out of the school where he surrendered himself to bystanders.

While Overall Juvenile Crime Falls in Northern Ohio, Heroin Use Surges

Officials in northern Ohio are seeing what they describe as an epidemic of drug use and offenses by juveniles. In Geauga County, in northeast Ohio, drug charges increased by 38.8 percent, and felony drug charges increased by 180 percent, according to the local juvenile court’s 2010 annual report. The main drug being used is marijuana, while heroin is making a comeback, the report says. Underage drinking cases in Geauga County have been the main reason children came to court in 16 of the last 18 years, but the cases are down this year, according to the News-Herald, a daily located in Willoughby east of Cleveland. Officials attribute the increase in charges to crime enforcement efforts being made by a new judge.

OxyContin Abuse Plagues Ohio

Ohio is struggling with a severe prescription drug abuse epidemic, according to a story in The New York Times. In the last decade, fatal overdoses surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in the state. Most popular among drug addicts is the painkiller OxyContin.  Read more about the devastating effects of prescription drugs and OxyContin abuse in Prescribed Addiction, the first in our ongoing series, Journeys.