In One Ohio County, Juvenile Court and Law Enforcement Have a Common Goal: Diversion

Posted July 10, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog inohiocountyjuvenilecourt 2017

In 2013, the juve­nile court in Ohio’s Cuya­hoga Coun­ty — home to the city of Cleve­land — ana­lyzed deten­tion uti­liza­tion data from the pre­ced­ing year. The big take­away? The largest pop­u­la­tion group in the county’s juve­nile deten­tion sys­tem con­sist­ed of local youth charged with non-vio­lent offens­es root­ed in a fam­i­ly conflict.

Court offi­cials in the coun­ty, which is a Juve­nile Deten­tion Alter­na­tives Ini­tia­tive (JDAI) site, agreed that deten­tion was not the right response for these youth, and they began search­ing for alter­na­tives. Local police chiefs respond­ed enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly to the prospect of col­lab­o­rat­ing and, in 2014, a new pilot pro­gram called Coor­di­nat­ed Approach to Low-risk Mis­de­meanors (C.A.L.M.) was born.

C.A.L.M. offers respite care for young peo­ple involved in low-lev­el domes­tic vio­lence offens­es and also con­nects fam­i­lies to ser­vices, when need­ed. Respond­ing offi­cers direct­ly refer youth to pro­gram, which excludes youth charged with seri­ous domes­tic vio­lence offens­es as well as youth with an open juve­nile case or a closed mis­de­meanor or felony case.

Once youth are deemed eli­gi­ble for C.A.L.M., a social work­er prompt­ly screens them and con­nects them with a respite home. These youth are also assigned a case man­ag­er, who links the involved fam­i­ly to ser­vices and helps the fam­i­ly reunite, if possible.

The pro­gram is still small — oper­at­ing in just two dis­tricts. But, so far, it’s work­ing. Of the 70-plus youth who have par­tic­i­pat­ed in C.A.L.M., only three have been involved in a sub­se­quent domes­tic vio­lence case.

On the ground, offi­cers over­whelm­ing­ly sup­port the pro­gram, accord­ing to Com­man­der Bran­don Kutz of Cleveland’s Fourth Dis­trict. It makes sense and it works,” he says. In Kutz’s depart­ment, C.A.L.M. reduces how long a front­line offi­cer spends on a case by 38%. Add detec­tives and pros­e­cu­tors into the equa­tion — who typ­i­cal­ly enter the pic­ture lat­er — and the time sav­ings shoots even higher.

Renee Edel, the court improve­ment project man­ag­er for the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Juve­nile Court, hopes that C.A.L.M. will expand to more police dis­tricts in the coun­ty, and she wants to share the program’s ear­ly lessons learned. To this end, both Edel and Kutz wel­come inquiries from juris­dic­tions inter­est­ed in adopt­ing the approach.

JDAI sites such as Cuya­hoga Coun­ty are pur­su­ing inno­va­tions to shield young peo­ple from the trau­ma and dis­rup­tion of deten­tion and to address the under­ly­ing fam­i­ly issues that caused the con­flict,” says Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. C.A.L.M. is one of many exam­ples we fea­ture in the lat­est JDAI prac­tice guide, which offers prac­ti­cal advice about how JDAI sites can estab­lish and main­tain effec­tive part­ner­ships with law enforcement.”

Read more about forg­ing part­ner­ships between JDAI and law enforcement

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