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Why Cuyahoga County is looking to Dayton for help with juvenile crime

Cuyahoga County is looking to Dayton and Montgomery County for a model on how to deal with juvenile offenders, according to the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. Here’s why:

1) Things are getting bad in Cleveland. A Jan. 8 riot at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center — coupled with a rise in violent crimes involving juveniles — has reignited calls for reform from Prosecutor Michael O’Malley and city council members. O’Malley wants a system in Cuyahoga County similar to the Montgomery County Juvenile Court’s Intervention Center. The center assesses some of the underlying issues behind juvenile crime — including problems at home — before assigning youth to a detention center. As Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Nick Kuntz told our reporter Malik Perkins for a story in 2015: “We learned that locking people up does not fix anything.”

2) The results here are dramatically different. Detention center admissions in Montgomery County are down and offenders don’t have to sit in a jail cell for months waiting until a case is adjudicated. The intervention center in Dayton is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, as the Plain Dealer article points out. Why is that important? “So many of these families are in immediate crisis,” Montgomery County Juvenile Court administrator Jim Cole said. “If you deal with it immediately, it tends to smooth things out down the road.”

3) Intervention in lieu of incarceration is proven to cause fewer problems later on. The article points to studies by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which show juveniles who are subjected to detention are more likely to re-offend and less likely to graduate from high school.

In advocating for an approach like one that has been done here for roughly two decades, O’Malley told the Plain Dealer: “We see what’s going on in the streets. Nobody can possibly feel good. We have to do something different.”

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