Youth Justice Project: Supporting Better Responses for Juvenile Offenders
Studies over the past decade have demonstrated the ineffectiveness of punitive, exclusionary responses such as detention and expulsion to school- and community-based juvenile misconduct and crime. According to a report by the Justice Policy Institute, “The increased and unnecessary use of secure detention exposes troubled young people to an environment that more closely resembles adult prisons and jails than the kinds of community and family-based interventions proven to be most effective.” Holman, B. (2010).
The literature documents the profoundly negative impact that detention has on youths’ mental and physical wellness, education, and employment. Incarcerated youth are diagnosed with depression in high numbers; for many, depression’s onset comes after incarceration begins. Studies also suggest that the conditions of confinement combined with poor mental health make suicide and self-harm more likely for incarcerated teens. Youth incarceration also impacts the bottom line: youth who are incarcerated will have reduced future earnings and workforce stability. Educational outcomes are also compromised. Nearly 40 % of incarcerated youth have learning disabilities and all will encounter significant challenges reintegrating in the classroom after detention. Finally, the data documents endemic racial disproportionality among detained populations.
New approaches in juvenile justice and school discipline respond both to a paradigm shift in the way youthful offenders are viewed and to the practical reality that harsh discipline and punishment just do not work. Many recent approaches are also geared toward victim and community restoration, based on the premise that, although a victim and an offender may have different motivations, each seeks to restore their respective identities and deal with their losses. Such responses have as a central component structured interactions between victim and offender aimed at supporting recovery, reparation, and restoration.
Also critical in these approaches is the role of community, whether a neighborhood or school, or another defined group with shared interests, occupations, relationships, and/or goals. In the specific context of juvenile justice and youth court proceedings, communities are often victimized, both directly and secondarily, by the commission of crimes such as vandalism of public property or public nuisance, which are associated with loss of community safety and security. The same is true in the school context, in which crimes against individuals and crimes against the school both negatively impact institutional well-being, morale, and identity.
FYLaw’s Youth Justice Work
The Youth Justice Project builds on and expands FYLaw’s current collaboration with the Franklin County Juvenile Court and United Way of Central Ohio in the Court’s Community Restorative Justice Circle diversion program for first time youthful misdemeanor offenders who agree to participate. Restorative Justice Circles, comprised of community volunteers, address the victims’ needs and harms, hold youth accountable, and respect community needs and concerns. Community volunteers provide juveniles with the opportunity to repair the harm done to their victims and to make a positive contribution to their own community. Successful completion of the Restorative Justice Circle program means that the youth will not have court involvement or a juvenile record. FYLaw provides training and technical assistance for volunteers in the Circles now active in the Southside, Weinland Park, Westerville, Franklinton, Near East Side and Linden areas of Columbus.
In addition to its work with the Franklin County Juvenile Court, the FYLaw furthers Youth Justice principles through direct services to systems-involved youth through the Family and Youth Advocacy Center (FYAC). FYAC, staffed by Capital University and Capital Law School faculty and staff and law and social work students, meets the critical legal and social needs of youth who have been in foster care and/or the juvenile justice system, many of whom have been the victims of abuse or neglect, or are homeless, or are crime victims. FYAC offers free holistic assessments, resources, counseling, referrals, and service linkages in a multidisciplinary clinical setting. These services are aimed at addressing barriers that youth and young encounter as they move into independent living, such as preparation of health care powers of attorney and testamentary provisions; juvenile and adult records sealing and expungement; foster care records access; management of identity theft and credit issues; access to trusts; parenting needs; understanding and negotiating contracts; and access to healthcare and higher education.
Youth Justice Community Education
In addition to community training and direct youth services, the Youth Justice Project offers stakeholder education and training. In April, 2015, we held a community forum at Capital University’s Bexley campus to spur discussion and community action around key youth justice topics. This free event was open to students, faculty, staff and the public and drew more than 80 people to learn and share with judges, magistrates, court personnel, attorneys, mental health professionals, and law enforcement representatives about new approaches in juvenile justice and school discipline, adolescent brain development, procedural justice in juvenile court, and youth and law enforcement.
Please click on the links below to access the materials from the 2015 community forum
- Agenda and presenters
- Franklin County Juvenile Court Restorative Justice Circles Fact Sheet
- Mahoning County Crossover Youth program manual
- Trauma & Brain Development breakout session presentation (Dr. Fred Butcher)
- School Discipline breakout session presentation (Sarah Biehl)
- Youth & Law Enforcement breakout session presentation (Erin Davies)
- Procedural Justice in Juvenile Court breakout session materials (Rebecca Steele)
To follow up on the forum, the Project will offer a continuing education webinar on June 30th on Serving Cross-Systems Youth. This webinar will focus on youth who have been involved with one or more child-serving systems -- one of our most vulnerable populations. High percentages of such youth have disabilities, mental health issues and/or drug and alcohol involvement. In addition, youth of color are over-represented in these systems. The session will explore how we can assure fairness in serving these youth in relation to issues of race, ethnicity, foreign origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socio-economic status, and other relevant factors.
Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance Fact Sheets
The Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance (OJJA)is a coalition of Ohio non-profits and organizations dedicated to improving the juvenile justice system. FYLaw serves on the OJJA steering committee and is a member agency. In March 2015, OJJA released a series of fact sheets on a variety of juvenile justice topics. To view all 18 fact sheets, please visit: http://www.cdfohio.org/programs-campaigns/ohio-juvenile-justice.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
End Solitary Confinement for Ohio’s Youth!
Spending time in solitary confinement is one of the most difficult things incarcerated youth in Ohio face. The Children’s Law Center is working hard to end this practice and as part of that work is collecting signatures here: http://www.childrenslawky.org/stop-solitary-confinement/. Will you add your name to the growing list of organizations and individuals that have said “No!” to solitary confinement?
Richard Ross is a photographer, researcher and professor of art based in Santa Barbara, California. Ross has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Annie E. Casey and MacArthur Foundations. Ross was awarded both Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships. His most recent work, the -- In Justice series, turns a lens on the placement and treatment of American juveniles housed by law in facilities that treat, confine, punish, assist and, occasionally, harm them. Two books and traveling exhibitions of the work continue to see great success while Ross collaborates with juvenile justice stakeholders, using the images as a catalyst for change. Check out Richard’s moving Juvenile In Justice series.
In order to further our mission, FYLaw engages in advocacy at the state and federal levels when proposed legislation may impact Ohio’s children, youth, and families. Below is a list of currently pending legislation that FYLaw is monitoring.
- House Bill 50: Ward's bill of rights/Guardianship Guide/foster care-extend eligibility
- House Bill 63: Child placed with attorney-in-fact-notifiers of child abuse or neglect-file complaint if placement unsafe
- Senate Bill 30: Ohio Family Stability Commission-create