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The Faults in Our System: Transforming Juvenile Justice

The Faults in Our System: Transforming Juvenile Justice

In May 2022, a Cleveland City Council Safety Committee meeting sharply focused on a perception of increased juvenile crime in the city. After lengthy discussion,  Councilwoman Stephanie Howse heard enough, “We are trying to paint our city and our young people, that they are totally out of control, when we have failed them. We have failed them. We have failed them." The Councilwoman asked for more information on what led the city's young people to commit crimes, and urged for preventative measures. The response from the county prosecutor suggested a noticeable disconnect over the perception of Cleveland's children in the justice system.

2021 poll by political consultancy GBAO revealed that 81 percent of Ohioans favored a youth justice system that focuses on prevention and rehabilitation, rather than punishment and incarceration. Yet, despite declining national incarceration trends, Black and Indigenous youth are still incarcerated and sentenced at higher rates than their white peers. Recent  data shows that it can cost $279,805 per year to imprison a child in Ohio, but only $13,000 per year for public education. Add to this, Ohio requires family to pay some of the cost of confinement--creating a negative feedback loop of poverty that disproportionately harms communities of color.

Brooke Burns
Managing Counsel, Youth Defense Department, Office of the Ohio Public Defender

Stephanie D. Howse
Ward 7 Councilwoman, Cleveland City Council

Leah Winsberg
Staff Attorney, Children's Law Center, Inc.

Piet van Lier
Senior Researcher, Policy Matters Ohio

Natalia Garcia is a digital producer for the education team at Ideastream Public Media.