COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A quarter-century after Ohio’s juvenile prison system was on the brink of crisis, it has become a model for others, according to a report released Monday.
The state dramatically decreased the number of young people behind bars and saved taxpayers millions of dollars through the use of alternative programs, the Juvenile Justice Coalition said in the report.
“Ohio’s de-incarceration programs are less expensive and more effective than prisons when youth are matched to the right programs,” the group’s executive director, Erin Davies, told Northeast Ohio Media Group. “We must continue to urgently embrace what works so we can give all Ohio youth, families, and communities the best chance for success.”
Ohio’s juvenile prison system was far over the intended capacity in the early 1990s, with nearly 2,500 juveniles in correctional facilities, according to the Columbus-based nonprofit. Now there are fewer than 500 in Ohio’s youth prisons.
Lawmakers created a pilot program in 1993 in which nine counties got grant money to divert non-violent juvenile offenders from youth prisons into community-based programs. Those programs connected the children with family counseling, mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.
The number of incarcerated children in those counties dropped by more than 40 percent in the first year. Lawmakers expanded the program statewide a year later and saw similar results.
The report said there’s room for improvement. The study found giving too much counseling to children who are considered at low risk of re-offending could actually increase their likelihood of committing another crime.
Information from: Northeast Ohio Media Group
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