How Ohio Went From Investing in Youth Prisons to Investing in Youths’ Futures

Posted December 23, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog bringyouthhome 2015

In the past two decades, Ohio has slashed its state youth prison pop­u­la­tion by more than 80% while boost­ing pub­lic safe­ty, improv­ing youth out­comes and sav­ing tax­pay­ers tens of mil­lions of dol­lars. A new report from the Juve­nile Jus­tice Coali­tion of Ohio doc­u­ments these suc­cess­es and shares key find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions aimed at help­ing state lead­ers across the coun­try fol­low in Ohio’s footsteps.

What’s most impres­sive about Ohio is that it has tak­en funds saved from reduc­ing its prison pop­u­la­tion and rein­vest­ed them,” says Nate Balis, the direc­tor of the Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. It has also pushed coun­ties to employ effec­tive research-informed pro­gram mod­els and invest­ed in care­ful eval­u­a­tion stud­ies to mea­sure results.”

The ques­tion is not whether states should engage in dein­car­cer­a­tion strate­gies, but how to best imple­ment strate­gies that have been shown to reduce youth incar­cer­a­tion while main­tain­ing pub­lic safety.”

The report, Bring Youth Home: Build­ing on Ohio’s Dein­car­cer­a­tion Lead­er­ship,” spot­lights RECLAIM, an inno­v­a­tive reform launched in 1995 that flipped finan­cial incen­tives to encour­age courts and pro­ba­tion agen­cies to serve kids local­ly in lieu of com­mit­ting them to state youth prisons.

Thank to RECLAIM, Ohio went from lock­ing up 2,500 youth in 19921,100 youth above capacity—to lock­ing up less than 500 youth in 2014. Even more, the reform effort worked. Youth placed in RECLAIM pro­grams were far less like­ly to be arrest­ed or incar­cer­at­ed at a lat­er date rel­a­tive to peers ini­tial­ly placed in state youth pris­ons or local cor­rec­tion­al facilities.

Bring Youth Home” also out­lines three new­er ini­tia­tives root­ed in evi­dence-based non-res­i­den­tial treat­ment pro­grams designed to help Ohio con­tin­ue to reduce its reliance on incarceration.

These three ini­tia­tives are:

  1. Behav­ioral Health and Juve­nile Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive (BHJJ). From 2005 to 2014, this ini­tia­tive served more than 2,500 high­er-risk youth with sig­nif­i­cant behav­ioral health and sub­stance use chal­lenges. It has proven to be both a cheap­er and more effec­tive option for keep­ing youth on a path toward suc­cess. Sta­tis­ti­cal­ly speak­ing: Ohio spent $5,000 per BHJJ youth and doc­u­ment­ed just a 2% incar­cer­a­tion rate among par­tic­i­pants who suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed the pro­gram. In com­par­i­son, incar­cer­a­tion has cost the state about $167,000 per youth while yield­ing a 19% rein­car­cer­a­tion rate.
  2. Tar­get­ed RECLAIM. Launched in six coun­ties in 2009, this ini­tia­tive offers com­mu­ni­ty treat­ment in lieu of incar­cer­a­tion to youth who have been adju­di­cat­ed for felony offens­es. It has helped cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ties in these areas cut admis­sions by 68%. Even more, it’s help­ing youth steer clear of incar­cer­a­tion down the road. Youth in Tar­get­ed RECLAIM pro­grams were two times less like­ly to be incar­cer­at­ed — and low-risk youth three times less like­ly to be incar­cer­at­ed — rel­a­tive to peers who had served time in cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ties. Based on these suc­cess­es, Ohio has expand­ed the ini­tia­tive statewide.
  3. Com­pet­i­tive RECLAIM. This ini­tia­tive, which Ohio rolled out in 2015, cov­ers 24 coun­ties and has a three-pronged focus: 1) diver­sion pro­grams for low-risk youth; 2) inter­ven­tion pro­grams for mod­er­ate- and high-risk youth; and 3) mul­ti-coun­ty col­lab­o­ra­tions to boost in-home treat­ment options in less pop­u­lous counties.

Read the report and learn more

Read about mal­treat­ment of youth in juve­nile cor­rec­tion­al facilities

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