Ohio’s juvenile justice system isn’t working, says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In bloated juvenile prisons, public safety comes first; rehabilitation takes a back seat. One out of two inmates commits a new crime after being released and lands back behind bars within three years. That further clogs the adult system, which is expected to surge to 65,000 inmates in the next decade. The state spends more than $260 million a year running the juvenile system with razor wire, cells, and surveillance cameras. The concrete, bunker-style buildings often incubate criminal minds, rather than deter them, says the newspaper. Other states, notably Missouri, take a different tack. Missouri sinks money – and less of it – into small, intense centers where caring adults, not guards, push kids to grasp what led them to crime and to change it.
One expert hired to examine the Ohio system started with a suggestion: Blow it up. Start over again,” University of Cincinnati researcher Ed Latessa said. In some facilities, the youths spit, douse their keepers in urine and endlessly manipulate. “When you are put in a cage, you act like an animal,” said boy, 16, in a maximum securityfacility in Massillon. Nearly two-thirds of the inmates have mental health problems. Many have been abused or abandoned, used drugs and never learned to read well. Some can be turned around,rewired, retaught. But that’s not how the system is set up. “We punish and we warehouse, that’s what we do with these kids,” said State Rep. Michael Debose. “The rehabilitation part of it is almost nonexistent. What isthere is only used for a few kids.”