How Ohio Juvenile Court Uses Risk Assessment To Cut Incarceration


A juvenile court judge in Toledo, deciding that a robbery defendant was not a high risk for reoffending, let him live at home on probation and take part in a program that offers mentoring and other social services. The Christian Science Monitor quotes the youth’s mother as saying that the court's approach gives teens “a second chance to realize the seriousness of the offense and learn from it.” The case is emblematic of a quiet revolution in juvenile justice. Driven by incarceration’s high cost of incarceration and a better understanding of adolescent behaviors, states and localities are launching initiatives to provide counseling, drug treatment, and other support for young offenders rather than locking them up. The idea is to save money and try to keep youths from committing more crimes by addressing their problems at the roots.

Lucas County, which includes Toledo, is a leader in this movement. Juvenile court officials do the “my kid” test with every case. They want to ensure all young people are being treated fairly, and they live by the mantra “The right kid in the right place at the right time,” targeting services to their needs and taking care not to mix children who are unlikely to commit more crimes with high-risk youths. They also rely on research instead of just gut instinct. When it comes to deciding whether to lock up arrested youths, they use standardized risk assessments. The number of incarcerated children has been declining dramatically. The story was written by Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, a juvenile justice reporting fellow of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice, publisher of this news digest.

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