Group finds Ohio makes major reforms in juvenile justice system

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – One group is recognizing Ohio for what it sees as progress for juvenile justice reform.

A Juvenile Justice Coalition (JJC) report says in nearly a decade the Buckeye State has drastically cut the incarceration of children.

The group found about 500 kids are jailed, compared to nearly 23 years ago when that number was quadrupled.

2 NEWS wanted to get a closer look at Montgomery County, and what we learned is that the courts and law enforcement have put programs in place to reform the juvenile justice system.

Doing time use to be the punishment for the crime, even if you’re a child; but, currently that’s not always the case.

There’s a large push to move towards rehabilitation first.

“We had way too many kids in prison. We just did,” Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi acknowledged.

JJC agrees with the Honorable Anthony Capizzi. JJC Executive Director Erin Naives tells 2 NEWS new policies are taking a closer look at how to help these kids.

“It’s really making sure that we’re matching youth with the right program and addressing what they’re presenting to the system so the underlying reasons of why they’re coming to the attention of the court system.”

Judge Capizzi has a first hand view of the reforms. He was elected to serve at the Montgomery County Juvenile Justice Center in 2004.

“Over the last 7 years now Montgomery County use to send about 180 youth to the Department of Youth Services every year,” he detailed. “We’re down to about 30 to 35. It’s amazing, probably 80 percent reduction number of young people we send.”

The judge says his court still holds these children accountable for any convicted crimes, and that the safety of the community is not compromised by these rehabilitation sentences.

“I see the child in a different way that they treat themselves,” Capizzi remarked. “They respect themselves better. I see the family much prouder of their child for having complete the program.”

And that’s something Judge Capizzi believes is worth replicating across the nation.

“I can very proudly say we’re doing it the best of anybody in the country.”

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