State strikes back over juvenile seclusion
By Alan Johnson THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The state is pushing back against the U.S. Department of Justice, arguing that the feds overstepped their bounds in charging that mentally ill boys in Ohio correctional facilities are being unlawfully punished by being locked in seclusion.
In a response filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, Attorney General Mike DeWine accused the federal agency of “a unilateral attempt to circumvent the terms of the consent decree” signed in January 2013 in a case about how juveniles are confined and treated at Ohio youth prisons.
- DeWine did not challenge the claim that mentally ill youngsters had been locked up in segregation for 60,000 hours in the last six months of 2013.
The action stems from a case originally filed against the state by the federal agency in 2008. By mutual agreement, the state and federal government narrowed the focus of the case to the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility in Delaware. DeWine said the Department of Justice now is trying to improperly reopen a wider case involving three other facilities.
If the Department of Justice wants to do that, DeWine argued, “it should file a new complaint.”
DeWine noted that the Scioto facility is closing soon and houses 10 girls and no males.
- The federal lawsuit, being heard by U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley, contends the state “systematically violated the substantive due process rights of boys with mental-health disorders at four of its juvenile correctional facilities,” causing them “real irreparable harm.”
New statistics published yesterday by The Dispatch showed the total number of seclusion hours for all offenders, not just mentally ill juveniles, rose last year to 209,266 hours, about 453 hours for each youth in all facilities. That compares with 187,600 hours in 2012, an average of 362 per offender. The 2013 increase was in contrast to a 26.7 percent drop from 2011 to 2012.
Ohio has so many indefensible behaviors and so-called political maneuvers which demonstrate little or no concern for it’s citizens, that I sometimes feel I surely must have stumbled into a past century or something. What is happening these last few years has certainly not benefited Ohio.
One grieves over treatment of the lack of regulation and protection for our children from the destruction of our public school systems (in the name of austerities); the hapless freedom to set up publicly-funded chartered schools, blossoming almost everywhere and going bust almost as fast as one could turn around. As important but more grievous and painful is the same lack of concern for the welfare of displaced children bounced around from pillar to post and too frequently put where they haven’t a chance to survive including group homes where there is lack of supervision and counseling
But to read about mentally disadvantaged kids being put into “correctional facilities” or prisons is in my mind – criminal. To isolate these kids is a torment beyond imagining. If I anguish so just in reading about it, one has to wonder — who the hell designed this system and why? Thank God the U.S. Department of Justice IS stepping in. Jan)