Social Policy: Juvenile Justice

Support community-based, least restrictive placement; rights and humane treatment of children who are juvenile offenders
Position In Brief: 

Support community-based, least restrictive placement; rights and humane treatment of children who are juvenile offenders; alternative educational services; gender-specific treatment programs; unbiased treatment regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, or socio-economic status; statewide uniform standards for dealing with juvenile records. Oppose holding children in adult jails.

Juvenile Justice

(adopted 2003; updated 2005; amended 2017)

The LWV of Ohio supports the right of juveniles to unbiased treatment regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, or socio-economic status.

The LWVO supports the following principles and policies:

  1. The LWV of Ohio supports the principle that children under the age of 18 are not adults and that their treatment within the juvenile justice system should relate to their stage of development.
    • Children should not be held in adult prisons or detention facilities.
    • Unruly children should not be placed in secure facilities (defined as those with architectural barriers).
  2. The LWV of Ohio supports rehabilitation as the purpose of the juvenile justice system.
    • Development and use of local diagnostic and treatment/resources are desirable alternatives to large centralized institutions.
    • Development and use of local social service programs to provide appropriate treatment for unruly and delinquent children and their families are preferred.
    • Development and use of a variety of alternatives to secure facilities within a child’s own community are preferred.  Alternatives could include group homes, foster homes, drop-in shelters, and other non-secure programs.
    • County Juvenile Courts and the Ohio Department of Youth Services are responsible for providing positive, individualized, humane treatment for children.
    • Each case should receive individual evaluation before the court. Judges should use their discretion to find the best resolution of each case.
    • The “least restrictive” option should determine placement of children awaiting court action as well as after adjudication. A child should not be detained in, or committed to, any facility or program that would physically restrict him/her beyond the degree of restriction needed to assure the child’s safety, the safety of others, or the child’s appearance at a scheduled court hearing.
  3. The LWV of Ohio supports the protection of children’s legal rights.
    1. If adjudicated not guilty, children have the right of expungement of all juvenile records pertaining to that case and the right of state-mandated written notification of eligibility for expungement review.
    • There should be statewide uniform standards for maintaining, disseminating, and/or inspecting juvenile records. These standards should be designed to protect the offender, as child and as adult, from unnecessary consequences of criminal behavior and the taint of criminality. Expungement procedures should be easy for a youth and his/her family to access.
    • Children have the right to bodily safety and integrity; freedom from physical and mental abuse; mental and physical care; drug and alcohol treatment; an education appropriate to the child’s intellectual, emotional, and physical capacities; access to the courts for enforcement of rights; and periodic review of placement and treatment.
  4. The LWV of Ohio supports the development, establishment, and enforcement of state standards for detention and treatment facilities. These standards should be continually reviewed for improvement. Standards for facilities used for detention or disposition should meet the following minimum requirements:
    • Protection of the rights of youth to personal possessions, privacy, freedom of and from religion, personal communications, limitations and procedural requirements for discipline, grievance and appeal mechanisms, bodily safety, and periodic review of placement.
    • Program requirements should include: initial physical, mental, and psychological evaluation; medical and dental care; recreation and exercise; education designed to meet individual needs; vocational training; psychiatric and psychological services; and aftercare.
    • Facilities should be required to maintain a minimum ratio of staff to youth; staff should have appropriate qualifications for working with youth; and standards for staff supervision and accountability should be maintained.
  5. The LWV of Ohio supports the development within each county or multi-county region of a comprehensive system of children’s services for the prevention and treatment of children at risk, as well as juvenile offenders; and a system that utilizes the resources of the extended community to give each individual child a continuum of care. A comprehensive system would require the intentional collaboration of the court, families, schools, and community agencies and organizations to create a holistic system for the benefit of the children.
  6. The LWV of Ohio supports the provision of public innovative alternative educational services, K through 12, to address the specific and individual needs of children who do not perform successfully in, or face expulsion from, the traditional public school setting.
  7. The LWV of Ohio supports the philosophy of a restorative system of justice for children as a dispositional option for juvenile court judges. A restorative justice approach to delinquency requires the voluntary participation of three essential groups: the offender, the victim, and the community. Key components are restitution to the victim and the community, offender self-improvement, and possible mediation with the victim. If successful, the offender would assume responsibility and take action to repair the damage caused. If the offender recidivates, traditional rehabilitation alternatives would be available at the discretion of the judge.
  8. The LWV of Ohio supports the development and utilization of gender-specific treatment programs.
    • Treatment programs should meet the specific needs of each individual.
    • Research-based gender-specific services should be available for both boys and girls.
    • Research on effective services and treatment for girls is needed. It should be encouraged and funded.
  9. The LWV of Ohio supports the right of juveniles to unbiased treatment regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, or socio-economic status.
Issues: 
League to which this content belongs: 
Ohio