The latest Kids Count data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows the rate of youth incarceration nationwide reached a new 35-year low in 2010.
In Ohio, the decrease was 31 percent from 1997 to 2010. At the Children's Defense Fund of Ohio, Dawn Wallace-Pascoe says what makes the data especially significant is that the decline has not led to a surge in juvenile crime. "It's improtant to show that there have been successes in this area. These data help back up the fact that locking up youth isn't necessary to improve public safety" says Wallace-Pascoe.
Laura Speer with the Casey Foundation says about three-quarters of kids incarcerated in the US are there for non-violent offenses. She says that's why its important to look at alternatives to juvenile incarceration. "They have a chance to det their lives back on track, and so we want to make sure they get put in the best possible program to get them back on track" says Speer.
To continue the trend, the report recommends several strategies, including incarcerating only those young people who pose a public safety risk... investing in home or community-based alternatives... and establishing small, treatment-oriented facilities for those kids who must be confined. Wallace-Pascoe says these approaches are shown to work.
According to Wallace-Pascoe, "In Ohio, the report actually mentions an approach that has been successful, referring to the RECLAIM Ohio Initiative, which provides funding for courts to pursue comminity-based options. Those types of things are state and local initiatives that have heen successful."
In 1995, RECLAIM Ohio was implemented statewide to reduce commitments to state institutions. According to the state, the Ohio Department of Youth Services population is down from a high of more than 26-hundred in 1992 to less than 550 in December 2012.