Wrapped up in red tape and regulations, it's incredibly difficult to squeeze any meaningful information out of the juvenile justice system. Although this kind of data lockdown is meant to protect children, in the end it might be creating a blind spot.
That's the takeaway from a new report released this week by the Juvenile Justice Coalition of Ohio
. According to the report, of the 95,000 status offense and delinquency cases currently on the books in the statewide system, concrete data exists on only 5,000 of those youths. With an annual $230 million in state funding pumped into the Ohio Department of Youth Services, and local juvenile agencies spending between $116,000 to $45 million on their own programs each year, that means it's hard to get an understanding of what is working and what isn't.
"Without consistent data from local courts on court budgets, it is unclear exactly how much is spent in Ohio on youth in the juvenile justice system," the report concludes.
The report notes 324,000 cases pass through the juvenile courts each year, with around 80,000 delinquency cases and 15,000 status offense cases. But little is known about the offenders in each of those piles — including the size of the probable overlap between the two.
There's also very little information tracked on specific individual cases, the report notes, including LGBTQI youths. The data we do actually have is pretty troubling, and it most centers on race. The report states the following: "Black youth make up 18% of Ohio’s youth population, but are 51% of youth adjudicated delinquent of felonies, 61% of youth in youth prisons, and 87% of youth in the adult court system."
A statistic like that just shows we could probably do a better job of watching who is coming through the system and for what. The organization concludes its report by suggesting data collection on juvenile courts be centralized by a uniform process handled by a single agency or entity. Right now, there are too many hands involved doing too little.