Panelists urge action to address juvenile justice challenges
Wednesday, Apr. 20, 2016
Significant state investments in early child care and education, nurse home visiting programs and recreational activities could save taxpayers a lot of money in child protection and juvenile justice costs down the road.
That's according to a panel of experts who spoke at last night's forum, "Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice: The Deincarceration of Our Youth."
Longtime League member and juvenile justice advocate Sue Phillips moderated a panel that included Erin Davies, director of the Ohio Juvenile Justice Coalition; Judge Beth Gill of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, and Chip Spinning, director of Franklin County Children Services.
The forum opened with a clip from the League's documentary "A Light Undimmed" recounting League activism on child welfare and juvenile justice issues in the 1960s and '70s, featuring Phillips.
Discussion focused on the evolution of practice in the courts and children services with respect to vulnerable delinquent youth, particularly in light of new brain science and improvements in cross-system collaboration. Davies noted that incarcerating a youth for one year costs Ohio taxpayers $200,000, but that far less could be spent up front on family stability services, therapy and other preventative measures. Gill and Spinning pointed to a variety of diversion efforts and alternative responses to prevent children from penetrating into their systems, particularly given that the majority of youth offenders will simply grow out of their negative behaviors.
Panelists encouraged a number of action steps, including:
- Contacting legislators to urge passage of House Bill 410 now before the Ohio General Assembly, a measure supported by the Juvenile Justice Coalition;
- Volunteering for the Franklin County Court's Restorative Justice Program;
- Volunteering to mentor a child in county protective custody; and
- Being an informed voter, particularly about down-ballot judicial candidates.