COLUMBUS, Ohio — Federal judge, Algenon Marbley recently ended most of his court-ordered monitoring of Ohio’s youth prison system. Certain elements still remain, including continued oversight of mental health services and units for those with behavioral issues.
Issues in the Ohio youth prison system have been officially on record since a 2004 lawsuit and then later in a settlement agreement in 2008 — but now work is finally progressing, according to Cincinnati lawyer representing juvenile inmates Alphonse Gerhardstein.
“The overriding message is that a lot has gone right and we’ll finish the work up in a cooperative fashion and the kids will be well-served,” Gerhardstein said in a statement.
The state has been working to reform the youth prison system after the 2004 lawsuit that stemmed from allegations of increased violence and mistreatment in the system. Since then, the Department of Youth Services has shrunk to four facilities, and its population dropped from more than 2,000 to about 600 to-date. Rehabilitation was also among the changes — as more convicted youth now have greater access to family and community support groups since the department has moved some youth to local centers to serve out their time.
The changes have also resulted in other challenges including how to handle the older populations of youths at these facilities. Many of the inmates still under state control are older and much more difficult to rehabilitate.
Per the judge’s ruling, the facilities will still be monitored and have routine assurance checks, but will be free from court-ordered monitoring. The judge wants to make sure the facilities are safe and that appropriate services are being provided to inmates. However, court oversight is still in effect for mental health services.
The recent ruling shifts a dark cloud away from the state’s youth prison system reputation and makes way for a new and improved system. Youth service administrators in Ohio have significantly reduced the number of offenders in secure confinement and have made more rehabilitation programs available. The state continues to secure the future of incarcerated youth by focusing on treatment options and constantly bettering the services offered to inmates.