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Juvenile and Family Court Journal


juvenile delinquents, disabilities, juvenile justice


Detaining and incarcerating juvenile delinquents is ineffective and costly juvenile justice policy. These placements, indicative of the “tough on crime” approach, become problematic for many of these youths who do not have the advantage of legal counsel because they waive this right. In addition, a majority of these youths have a mental health or special education disability that does not get addressed in correctional facilities. Alternatives for Youth's Advocacy Program (AFY) in Cleveland, Ohio (Cuyahoga County) is addressing these issues using a holistic approach that includes the provision of civil legal representation to assist youths in accessing disability services and defense attorney support in dispositional planning to reduce juvenile offender placements. This article reports the results of an experimental design pilot study evaluation of AFY that randomly referred and evaluated 82 felony-offending youths over 21 months. This initial review of the AFY program found it reduced detention center placement days by 47% and decreased state facility incarceration days by 74% (total cost savings $625,898). With 3,000 youths detained in the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Detention Center and 1,800 incarcerated in Ohio state facilities annually, policy implications and recommendations are set forth.

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DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-6988.2008.00016.x

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