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Kids in Adult Prison

Ohio’s first statute to authorize transferring kids to adult court became effective on November 19, 1969.  November 2019 marks 50 years of placing kids in adult jails and prisons. But adult jails and prisons are no place for an adolescent. These facilities often do not have appropriate educational services, mental health care, or rehabilitative programming. And kids are more likely to be assaulted, attempt suicide, and be placed in solitary confinement (for their own protection) in an adult facility.

In the past fifteen years, the US and Ohio Supreme Courts have issued a number of decisions that significantly limit how and when a child may receive a lifelong prison sentence. Yet in Ohio, the number of children serving life without parole has increased from 2 in 2010, to 12 in 2020. 

Ohio is the only state in the nation that saw an increase in the number of juveniles serving life without parole (JLWOP). By 2020, 27 states and Washington DC either banned or had no one serving JLWOP. It was estimated during a 3-month review in 2019 that out of all the individuals being reviewed for release by the Ohio Parole Board, 16%-22% were under the age of 18 at the time of their offense.

In December 2020, Ohio’s legislature passed SB 256, giving special parole eligibility to individuals who were under age 18 at the time of the offense(s) for which they were convicted. Additional resources explaining SB 256 are below.

The Kids in Adult Prison Working Group at OPD believes that no child should be placed in an adult jail or prison, the number of children being transferred for adult prosecution should be significantly limited, and sentencing laws for children must comply with US and Ohio Supreme Court decisions. 

On this page are a number of resources to help you learn more about this issue.

SB 256 – Kids Sentenced as Adults – Parole Eligibility

The Kids Serving Life Blog

News and articles related to the kids in adult prison.