The 17-year-old boy with a slash of a scar between his eyebrows frustrates Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Thomas O’Malley, says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The court has deemed the teen with an IQ of 52 incompetent to stand trial. Yet if released, the teen would likely hurt himself or someone else within 24 hours. “What do I do with him?” O’Malley asked.
The question is echoed in juvenile courts across the state. In Ohio’s juvenile courts – unlike the adult system – no written rules dictate how to determine if a juvenile is competent to be tried in court. Courts must to fashion their own. There’s nowhere for the court to put potentially dangerous kids who can’t be tried. The issue is more urgent as younger children, and more mentally unsound kids, are charged with severe crimes that come with harsher adult penalties. The Cuyahoga juvenile court evaluated 56 youths for competency last year, roughly one in 170 times a juvenile was charged as a delinquent. In many cases, charges were dismissed or a judge decided the youth was “dependent,” meaning that a government agency takes over. Neither of those options may be adequate to protect the public, O’Malley said.