The Ohio Public Defender Juvenile Department is a leader in effective advocacy for children in Ohio’s justice system. The Juvenile Department is a team of talented professionals focused primarily on post-disposition advocacy and ensuring that the constitutional rights of children are fully realized and protected. We steadily work toward a holistic approach to helping youth in the justice system and believe that the value of our advocacy extends beyond a child’s duration of confinement. The Department strives to remain at the forefront of the struggle for systemic improvement in juvenile justice through statewide and national collaboration; and involvement in policy, education, professional development, and reform initiatives. Our commitment to these efforts protect children’s right to be represented by counsel, raises the quality of representation, and promotes the just and humane treatment of children in the legal system.
About the Juvenile Department
The Juvenile Department provides access to the courts for children who have been committed to the Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS). Juvenile Department attorneys provide legal assistance and representation that begins with a legal orientation during the intake process. Attorneys may then represent children by gathering legal information; correcting sentence errors; filing detention credit and judicial release motions; on appeal and post-conviction matters in state and federal court; during sex offender registration hearings that may include classification, review, or declassification; and when a child’s case is remanded for new trial proceedings.
Juvenile Department attorneys provide assistance to children in ODYS on conditions of confinement matters, which includes responding to requests for assistance, reviewing fact investigations, determining whether the child’s conditions of confinement claim has merit, and referring the child to a private attorney for direct representation on their claim. If no private attorney accepts the case within a reasonable time, the attorney will prepare pro se pleadings, including a complaint, a motion for appointment of counsel, and other applicable pleadings. Attorneys also advocate for children during discipline and release reviews to the ODYS Release Authority, which impacts the child’s length of stay and release date.
The Juvenile Department also provides legal assistance for children who have been bound over to be tried as an adult, and convicted and sentenced to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. This representation includes a legal orientation during the intake process, and may include jail time credit, judicial release, appeal, or post-conviction.
In addition to direct representation, the Juvenile Department coordinates with and provides training to defense attorneys who handle juvenile work around the state, and provides systemic and legislative advocacy on right to counsel, quality of defense representation, and other substantive issues involving children in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Eighty percent of the states (40 states and Washington, DC) have changed their laws to make it more difficult to treat children as if they were adults. As a result, the number of youth charged as adults has dropped from an estimated 250,000 to 75,9003, as youth crime and arrest rates continue to fall to their lowest point in 50 years.
This report summarizes lessons learned through the first months of the pandemic, focusing on system responses, both positive and negative, to slow the virus’s spread and to protect the safety and wellbeing of youth in the juvenile justice system while keeping the public informed.