New Brief Describes Ohio as Model for Major Juvenile Justice Reforms and Savings

Getting it Right CoverGetting it Right: Realigning Juvenile Corrections in Ohio to Reinvest in What Works, a new publication by the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University, documents a fundamental shift in how the state of Ohio addresses the needs of youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

Twenty years ago, the number of state juvenile correctional facilities in Ohio, and the number of children incarcerated in those facilities, were near an all-time high.

In response, the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS), the state’s juvenile corrections agency, developed an innovative program called RECLAIM (Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternatives to the Incarceration of Minors).

Ten years later, Ohio was being sued for unconstitutional conditions of confinement in the DYS juvenile correctional facilities. The state was also struggling with high recidivism rates and recognized the need to produce better outcomes for the young people in its care.

Today, DYS has seen a major decrease in the number of youth in its facilities, closed all but three correctional facilities and expanded partnerships with research-supported, community-based alternative programs throughout the state.

Both in Ohio and nationally, research on child and adolescent development, program evaluations and cost-benefit analyses have provided insight about effective interventions for young people involved in the juvenile justice system.

Getting It Right shows that findings from these studies have been used to help inform and advance cost-effective, evidence-based programs (EBPs) to better meet the needs of young people. This work is part of a broader effort to “rightsize” the system, as the state reinvests corrections savings into community-based EBPs.

The brief also describes state-local partnerships among juvenile courts, program providers and others seeking to achieve the best outcomes for young people and communities as well as savings for taxpayers and government agencies.

“Ohio offers a promising example of critical fiscal realignment and reinvestment efforts,” says Gabriella Celeste, director of child policy at the Schubert Center and author of the brief. “The state may serve as a model for others interested in a collaborative approach to policy change and, ultimately, better results for those involved in the juvenile justice system.”

Celeste notes that a new category of funding for community EBPs, recently announced by DYS, draws from savings achieved by the latest closure of a juvenile correctional facility.

Such facilities spend $561 a day for each young person in their care. EBPs have been shown to be considerably less expensive and to yield better results. For example, for every dollar spent on Multisystemic Therapy, an EBP offered in several Ohio counties, $9.51 to $23.59 may be realized in savings to taxpayers and crime victims while significantly reducing recidivism rates.

Getting It Right does exactly that,” says Patrick Kanary, director of the Center for Innovative Practices at CWRU’s Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education. “This compelling brief tells the story of how a major public system can not only take advantage of trends such as the decline in felony adjudications, but lead the way in funding those interventions and projects that achieve positive outcomes for individual youth and their families, local courts and communities.

The brief is available online at

Celeste presented the brief at the Vera Institute of Justice Congressional Briefing, “Returning Home: Creating Paths for Success in Communities” in Washington, DC January 9. Read a blog post about Celeste’s presentation.

For information, contact Celeste ( or 216.368.5314); or Sarah Robinson, assistant director, ( or 216.368.0540). Also visit