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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | OH

Ohio: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 



  • Facility Closures and Downsizing — Ohio Closes Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility: The Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) announced in November of 2013 that it would close the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility, which housed all the girls committed to the state (a total of 18) as well as 20 boys. The facility closed in May 2014 and the girls were transferred to a unit in a community correctional facility (a locked residential facility meant to serve youth locally) as well as several residential mental health facilities for girls with more intensive mental health needs. The boys were integrated into other DYS facilities. Ohio has seen a steady drop in the DYS population, from an average of 685 youth in October 2011 to 525 youth in October 2013. The closure of the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility leaves DYS with three state-operated juvenile correctional facilities in addition to private or county-operated facilities with whom the state contracts for beds.
  • Organizational and Large-Scale Change — Ohio’s Budget Directs Funding to Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: Ohio’s FY 2014-15 budget bill contained provisions benefiting youth in the justice system. First, the law establishes that the Ohio Office of the Public Defender is to provide legal assistance to youth in Department of Youth Services (DYS) facilities. In addition, the budget provides that DYS can use up to 45 percent of the savings stemming from facility closures to expand evidence-based community programs, including those funded through the Targeted RECLAIM and Behavioral Health and Juvenile Justice initiatives. H.B. 59, signed into law and effective June 30, 2013.

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  • Adjudication and Sentencing — Ohio Allows Waiver of Driver’s License Suspension for Certain Youth: Ohio judges may now order the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to waive the suspension of the driver’s license or temporary driving permit of youth under 18 if it would seriously affect the youth’s ability to continue with his or her employment, educational training, vocational training, or treatment and if he or she successfully completes an advanced youth driver improvement program. S.B. 19/Act No. 137, signed into law June 26, 2012; effective September 28, 2012.
  • Confidentiality and Expungement — Ohio Addresses Collateral Consequences for Youth: The Ohio General Assembly passed a bill focused on reducing collateral consequences for both adults and youth involved in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems. For youth, the law expands eligibility and shortens the timeframe for the expungement of some youth’s juvenile court records, and creates a presumption that youth transferred to adult court be held in juvenile detention facilities instead of adult jails. The law also guarantees that youth who are confined pre-adjudication receive credit toward their sentences for time served in locked facilities. Unfortunately, the original law and subsequent amendments expanded the type of juvenile court records that can be released for certain criminal records checks. S.B. 337/Act No. 131, signed into law June 26, 2012; effective September 28, 2012.
  • Sex Offender Laws and Registries — Ohio Supreme Court Declares Automatic Sex Offender Registration and Notification Unconstitutional: On April 3, 2012, the Ohio Supreme Court found the state’s statute requiring automatic lifetime sex offender registration and notification for youth unconstitutional and counter to the rehabilitative goal of the juvenile justice system. In a 5-2 ruling, the court found the statute’s automatic lifelong registration and the public notification requirements for youth adjudicated in juvenile court to be a violation of the 8th Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. In re C.P., Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-1446.
  • Sexual Exploitation of Youth — Youth Who Are Victims of Human Trafficking Gain Protection under Ohio Law: Under a new Ohio law that aims to “treat victims as victims rather than as criminals,” youth accused of committing the adult act of solicitation, prostitution, or loitering or charged with offenses related to their trafficking are entitled to participate in a diversion program and receive a guardian ad litem. The juvenile court judge may make orders about the youth’s placement and services and if the court finds the youth completes these rehabilitative services, the underlying charges can be dismissed and the youth’s record can be expunged. H.B. 262/Act No. 142, signed into law and effective June 27, 2012.

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  • Facility Closures and Downsizing — State Drastically Decreases Number of Youth Held in Facilities While Increasing Funding for Community-Based Programming: The Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS) has closed four youth facilities and downsized existing facilities since July 2009, thanks to RECLAIM Ohio—a fiscal realignment program that diverts funds from youth prisons to community-based alternatives—and reforms stemming from a 2008 class-action lawsuit (S.H. v. Stickrath, Case No. 2:04-cv-1206, now S.H. v. Reed), as well as state budget reductions. The average daily population in ODYS facilities dropped over 50 percent between December 2008 and December 2011. Through its facility closures, Ohio freed up over $57 million in operational expenses that had previously been spent on incarceration, a portion of which has been reinvested in Targeted RECLAIM and the Behavioral Health Juvenile Justice Initiative, which aim to reduce commitments to ODYS and increase the use of evidence-based programs in the community. Additional savings from the closures are being invested in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) and a residential treatment alternative for girls.
  • Sex Offender Laws and Registries — Supreme Court Protects Young Children Charged with Certain Sex Offenses: In June 2011, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued a decision protecting young children from certain sex offender laws. The youth in the case, D.B., was charged with multiple counts of rape for acts that occurred between him and an 11-year-old friend when D.B. was 12 years old. The juvenile court found that the acts had been consensual and that no force or coercion had been used, but adjudicated D.B. delinquent under Ohio’s statutory rape law, which prohibits sexual conduct with a person under the age of 13. D.B. challenged his adjudication, arguing that he, a 12-year-old boy, could not constitutionally be prosecuted under a law that offers special protections to a class to which he himself belonged (i.e., children under the age of 13). The Supreme Court of Ohio agreed, ruling that D.B.’s prosecution under Ohio’s statutory rape statute violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Ohio’s statutory rape law can no longer be applied to children under the age of 13 who engage in sexual conduct with other children under the age of 13. The prosecutor in D.B.’s case filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied the petition in December 2011, leaving the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision standing. In re D.B., 129 Ohio St.3d 104 (2011).
  • Sex Offender Laws and Registries — Supreme Court Finds State’s Implementation of the Adam Walsh Act Unconstitutional: In June 2010, the Supreme Court of Ohio declared that the retroactive reclassification of sex offenders under Ohio’s S.B. 10 (the state’s attempt to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Act) is an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers when the registrant (adult or juvenile) had previously been classified by a court order. State v. Bodyke, 126 Ohio St.3d 266 (2010). In July 2011, the Supreme Court of Ohio again addressed S.B. 10, finding that the registration duties imposed by S.B. 10 amount to punishment, and therefore cannot be constitutionally applied retroactively. State v. Williams, 129 Ohio St.3d 344 (2011). Another case that may impact Ohio’s S.B. 10 is pending in the state Supreme Court; In re J.V. (2011-0107) challenges a juvenile court’s authority to impose punishment after a youth turns 21.
  • Adjudication and Sentencing — Legislature Passes Sentencing Reform Bill: Ohio’s new sentencing reform bill includes a range of positive changes for youth. It explicitly supports researchinformed, outcome-based programs and services; allows judges to consider early release opportunities throughout a youth’s commitment, including youth serving mandatory sentences; revises mandatory sentencing guidelines for youth to allow for judicial discretion in instances where the youth was not the main actor; adopts uniform competency standards for all delinquency proceedings; establishes a reverse waiver provision that makes it possible for young people automatically transferred to adult court to return to juvenile court at the discretion of the judge; and creates a temporary interagency task force to make recommendations to the legislature for addressing the needs of delinquent youth with significant mental health issues. H.B. 86, signed into law June 29, 2011; effective September 30, 2011.

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