On March 20, 2018, Gabriella Celeste offered testimony to the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee concerning House Bill 394, which may serve as a companion bill to SB 64 (see earlier post). HB 394 eliminates mandatory bindover of youth, allowing a juvenile judge to make the decision of whether a child defender would be more appropriately handled by an adult criminal justice system. It also addresses Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP) by creating an opportunity for parole eligibility within 25 years for certain youth who have been transferred to adult court. See HB 394 for details on several other issues related to juvenile sentencing that are also addressed in the bill.
On December 11, 2017, Gabriella Celeste offered written testimony to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee in support of SB 64. SB 64 would eliminate the mandatory bindover of youth. Mandatory bindover is a legal mechanism in Ohio law that automatically deems a child an “adult” for certain offenses and transfers the child from the juvenile justice system to the adult court system without any judicial discretion. In her testimony, Celeste noted that Ohio’s current mandatory bindover fails to take into account any understanding of adolescence and prevents juvenile judges from taking an individualized approach in determining the best course of action for a specific child. Research has shown that youth transferred to the adult system increases the likelihood that the youth will reoffend compared to youth who remain in the juvenile justice system for similar offenses. Research also shows that youth in adult detention facilities often face serious harm, including increased violence and isolation, and long-lasting damage that can make it difficult for them to successfully return to society.
Currently SB 64 remains in committee.