Schubert Center for Child Studies sees success in Ohio’s juvenile justice reforms

Getting 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, takes an extensive look at how Ohio has engaged in a fundamental shift in the way the state addresses the needs of youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

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

This plight prompted the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS), the state’s juvenile corrections agency, to develop a new way to serve adjudicated youth locally through 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 how to produce better outcomes for the young people in their 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.

Research on child and adolescent development, program evaluation and cost-benefits of various interventions has provided insight about effective interventions for young people involved in the juvenile justice system.

Nationally and in Ohio, juvenile justice system reform efforts have used this research to help inform and advance more cost-effective, evidence-based programs (EBPs) to better meet the needs of young people.

Getting it Right highlights some of this work as part of a broader effort to “rightsize” the system, in part, by reinvesting corrections savings into community-based EBPs.

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

headshot of CWRU's Gabriella Celeste
Gabriella Celeste

“Ohio offers a promising example of critical fiscal realignment and reinvestment efforts,” says Gabriella Celeste, director of child policy at the Schubert Center, “and 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.”

DYS recently announced a new category of funding for community EBPs with dollars realigned from savings due, in part, to the latest closure of a DYS facility. Compared to the $561 youth per diem at a DYS facility, these EBPs have been shown to be considerably less expensive with better results.

For example, for every $1 spent on Multi-Systemic Therapy, an EBP offered in several Ohio counties, $9.51 to $23.59 is 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. “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

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