Non-Profit Group Says Ohio's Youth Prison System Has Improved

Credit Juvenile Justice Coalition

A new report says Ohio's juvenile prison system has become a model for others a quarter-century after it was on the brink of crisis.

A report by a Columbus non-profit group called the "Juvenile Justice Coalition" says the state dramatically decreased the number of young people behind bars and saved taxpayers millions of dollars through the use of alternative programs.  Kevin Niedermier of member station WKSU in Kent reports.

In 1992 Ohio’s juvenile prisons held nearly two-times the inmates they were designed for, and the overcrowding was projected to grow.  Instead of building more prisons, the state began a pilot program to match non-violent juvenile offenders with community-based alternative programs.  Erin Davies of the Juvenile Justice Coalition says the combination of family counseling, mental health and substance abuse services has cut recidivism rates and saved the state millions of dollars. Davies adds that while the effort is successful, matching under-aged offenders to the most effective alternative programs is complicated and those formulas still need constant updating to provide the best outcomes.