About 300 youth offenders — some as young as 14 — go through Ohio's criminal-justice system each year and end up in adult jails and prisons. A study by the Children's Law Center, “Falling Through the Cracks,” says young offenders in the adult system face a higher risk of being assaulted, are more prone to suicide, and are 34 percent more likely to commit crimes once released than are offenders processed in the juvenile justice system.
Ohio has taken steps through the Reclaim Ohio program to reduce the number of offenders in juvenile prisons. As recently as 1995, there were 2,795 young offenders in Department of Youth Services facilities. In February of this year, there were 628, a decline of 78 percent. State law includes several ways that juveniles as young as 14 can be sent to the adult system, depending on the severity of the crime. Ohio has made changes to laws regarding juveniles, some more successful than others. State lawmakers last year made it easier for youths sent to adult court to be transferred back to the juvenile system through waivers. However, a 2000 state law that was designed to restrict sending juveniles to adult court ended up expanding it.