Ohio JDAI Collaborative Expands Representation to Detention Hearings

Posted March 14, 2012

Some Ohio JDAI reform­ers have ensured that all detained youth in their coun­ties are rep­re­sent­ed by coun­sel through work with their local stake­hold­ers and rec­om­men­da­tions from the Ohio JDAI Indi­gent Defense Project.

The Sum­mit Coun­ty JDAI site began its first-ever deten­tion advo­ca­cy pro­gram on Oct. 3, 2011, near­ly a year after the Children’s Law Cen­ter began study­ing ways to improve rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the deten­tion process at five JDAI sites—Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lucas, Mont­gomery, and Sum­mit counties.

Franklin and Mont­gomery coun­ties have also tak­en steps to ensure that all youth are rep­re­sent­ed at deten­tion hearings.

We looked at it as a case pro­cess­ing issue—not from the stand­point of speed­ing things along but from fair­ness in the process,” said Steve Stahl, Sum­mit Coun­ty JDAI coordinator.

Sum­mit County’s Legal Defender’s Office, in coop­er­a­tion with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Akron School of Law, chose law stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in its advo­ca­cy pro­gram. It also hired an attor­ney, Aman­da Spies, to han­dle deten­tion hearings.

Law stu­dents con­duct inter­views with all new­ly detained youth at the deten­tion cen­ter. The gath­ered infor­ma­tion is then relayed to Spies, who meets with the youth pri­or to rep­re­sent­ing them at the deten­tion hearing.

Spies, who has prac­ticed as an attor­ney for 22 years, has found her rep­re­sen­ta­tion extreme­ly help­ful to youth. They real­ly have no idea of how this process works, and usu­al­ly they have a lot of ques­tions,” she said.

Sum­mit County’s deten­tion advo­ca­cy pro­gram is an excel­lent exam­ple of how JDAI col­lab­o­ra­tion can improve a youth’s expe­ri­ence with the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem. This issue was addressed through Sum­mit County’s Case Pro­cess­ing Com­mit­tee, Stahl said.

The entire com­mit­tee was very open to the idea, and some of the start­ing funds came from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, which was very help­ful,” he said.

Data are still being col­lect­ed, but Stahl is con­vinced that ensur­ing youth are rep­re­sent­ed from the begin­ning is mak­ing the process smoother.

Juve­nile pros­e­cu­tors will also begin attend­ing hear­ings, which is expect­ed to fur­ther expe­dite case pro­cess­ing. Joseph Kodish, the head of the Legal Defender’s Office, described the devel­op­ment of the pro­gram as a rel­a­tive­ly seam­less process.

Mag­is­trates have found that hav­ing an attor­ney present at the deten­tion hear­ings is a load off their shoul­ders and helps things move along,” he said. We’ve been able to dis­pose of some cas­es on the spot.”

Sum­mit Coun­ty Juve­nile Court Judge Lin­da Teo­dosio like­wise says the pro­gram has ben­e­fit­ed both youth and the court. It has ensured youths’ rights are under­stood and pro­tect­ed, and pro­vid­ed judges with infor­ma­tion they find use­ful in decid­ing whether to releas­es detained youth, she said.

This allows the court to make informed deci­sions regard­ing release and to deter­mine which deten­tion alter­na­tive can be best uti­lized to pro­tect pub­lic safe­ty,” Teo­dosio said.

Court intake staff have also found the pro­gram help­ful. They say the pro­gram relieves them of the bur­den of edu­cat­ing youth about the sys­tem and allows them to focus on whether to release or hold the youth.

Judge Teo­dosio has always been a cham­pi­on of pro­vid­ing best prac­tices to youth, and Steve Stahl has been a leader since JDAI began in Ohio,” said Beth Oprisch, Ohio JDAI state coor­di­na­tor. So this suc­cess is no sur­prise to me.”

For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact Beth Oprisch.

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