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Number Of Cuyahoga County Juveniles Charged As Adults Doubles

The Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center. [Matt Richmond / ideastream]
The Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center

Cuyahoga County leads the state when it comes to bindovers — or juvenile offenders sent to adult courts — and that number has doubled over the past two years.

Last year, 100 young offenders were charged as adults, four times the rate in Franklin County.

Organizations like the ACLU say the high number of bindovers are because prosecutors aren’t exercising discretion when filing charges. 

“A given circumstance might lead a prosecutor to be able to charge with felonious assault or attempted murder,” said Claire Chevrier, advocacy counsel. “And the choice to charge the higher offense would affect whether or not that juvenile was transferred via a mandatory bindover. “

But Cuyahoga County prosecutor Gregory Mussman says youth were committing serious crimes in 2017 and 2018, when he headed the juvenile division.

He says about 90 juveniles had cases that were sent to adult court in 2017. Three-quarters of those youths were in court for charges involving murders or first-degree felonies. 

“In 2017 we had 14 youth charged with murder; with murder alone,” Mussman said. “No county has ever had to deal with the amount of homicides that our youth have committed.”

A juvenile offenders’ age, and the severity of the crime determine whether a case must be sent to adult court, or whether the prosecutor can make the decision. In some cases, depending on age and prior record, a bindover is legally mandatory. But juveniles have to be at least 14 years old before the prosecutors can even consider one.

Advocates like Chevrier oppose unnecessary bindovers, because research shows transferring juvenile cases to adult courts increases recidivism.