The Greene County Juvenile Assessment Center is one of many initiatives in the county to divert at-risk kids from the juvenile court system. The center uses toys, books, and other things to make kids more comfortable while getting counseling.
Greene County Juvenile Court Judge Amy Lewis gave opening remarks for the event.
“The most important judge in the county, I think, is the juvenile court judge,” DeWine said. “They are dealing with young people, young people at a very important time in their life, a time when frankly you have a better chance of getting a better outcome than you do later on.”
Since the 1990s, the program has diverted thousands of kids from correctional facilities, and shut many of those facilities down. Ohio had 15,000 children adjudicated as felons in the ‘90s, Gies said. That number has plummeted by 75% to around 3,900.
The success of such programs, DeWine said, is because of the efforts of local jurisdictions.
“I’ve been in government and politics a long time,” DeWine said. “And the longer I’m in it, the more I’m convinced that local is better.”
“If we can deal with our problems at the local level...if the state does what it needs to do but lets local judges make the decision, we are a lot better off than housing these kids throughout the state in state institutions,” DeWine continued.
The courts work with several community resources, including the Family Violence Prevention Center, Miami Valley Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, and Greene County CASA, to help at-risk children.