Juvenile Justice

CDF-Ohio works to build awareness of and end the root causes of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline® crisis and youth incarceration. We champion effective youth violence prevention and intervention programs that help young people at every point of their involvement in the system — ranging from prevention efforts to divert youths from entering the system by creating alternatives to imprisonment, to supporting youths’ transition back into the community after a period of confinement.

The juvenile justice system resides near the end of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline crisis, where the intersection of poverty and race puts a Black boy born in 2001 at a one in three lifetime risk of going to prison, and a Latino boy a one in six lifetime risk of the same fate. Nonetheless, the juvenile justice system provides a critical opportunity to intervene and help get children on a more positive track toward college, productive work, and successful adulthood.

Ohio's Cradle to Prison Pipeline®

CDF-Ohio has been a leader in the State of Ohio in calling for changes to policies and practices in our schools and other institutions that push children in to the juvenile justice system.

CDF-Ohio believes that children must stay in school and must receive the support, services, and resources they need in school to achieve, both academically and socially.

End Harsh School Discipline

Our issue brief on the impact of school discipline policies on the Cradle to Prison Pipeline® in November 2012 showed, for the first time in Ohio, how the overuse of out-of-school suspension and expulsion is directly linked to children entering our juvenile justice system as a direct result of their treatment in our state’s schools. As a result, Ohio educators and policymakers are now starting to take notice and demand an end to the school to prison pipeline. CDF-Ohio continues to work tirelessly to ensure that Ohio children stay in school, and are treated with dignity and fairness in school, so that theirs will be paths to success, not prison.

Ensure that School Resource Officers Serve a Positive Role in Schools

National research shows that children in schools that are served by School Resource Officers (SROs, or police officers in schools) are more likely to be arrested in school for engaging in minor misbehavior. CDF-Ohio issued a strong call in our 2013 issue brief for Ohio schools to examine the practices of their SROs and to adopt guidelines that ensure that SROs serve a positive role in their school communities. As a result of this work, CDF-Ohio has been invited by the Ohio School Resource Officers Association to present at its annual trainings for SROs in 2014 and 2015.

Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance

The Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance (OJJA) is a statewide coalition dedicated to enhancing Ohio’s future by improving the structure, function, and outcomes of Ohio’s juvenile justice system in order to give all of Ohio’s children the opportunity to reach their full potential. CDF-Ohio serves on the steering committee of OJJA and helps to shape its activities.

Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance Fact Sheet Series

In 2015, OJJA released a series of fact sheets that provide a comprehensive, holistic overview of the current state of Ohio's juvenile justice system as well as recommendations for where we need to go next to continue to reform the system and better serve Ohio youth.

OJJA Members


American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio

Children's Defense Fund-Ohio

Easter Seals of Ohio

Human Services Chamber of Franklin County

Juvenile Justice Coalition

Lighthouse Youth Services

National Alliance on Mental Illness - Ohio

Office of the Ohio Public Defender

Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association

Ohio Justice and Policy Center

Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio

Voices for Ohio's Children

The AMOS Project

Children's Law Center, Inc.

Family and Youth Law Center, Capital University Law School

Justice for Children Project, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University

League of Women Voters of Ohio

Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy Coalition

National Association of Social Workers, Ohio Chapter

Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies

The Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Service Providers

Racial Justice Now!


Gabriella Celeste, Director, Child Policy, Schubert Center for Child Studies, Case Western Reserve University

Dana Hubbard, Associate Professor, Sociology, Cleveland State University

Karen Miner-Romanoff, Dean, College of Health and Public Administration, Franklin University

Sharon Weitzenhof, President, Juvenile Justice Coalition

Peggy Hanna, Clark County Peace Alliance

Christopher Mallett, Professor, Social Work, Cleveland State University

Mary Thomas, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University

Data & Resources

School Discipline Policies

This addendum to our 2012 report on Zero Tolerance policies in Ohio schools provides an updated look at school discipline data in Ohio schools and how it is negatively impacting the school to prison pipeline in Ohio.

May 1, 2017

Preventing Seclusion and Restraint in Ohio's Schools

This issue brief explores the vast negative physical, psychological, and developmental consequences of seclusion and restraint on children, as well as the ways that seclusion and restraint destroy school culture and are often unfairly and arbitrarily used to target students of color and students with disabilities. Although Ohio has relatively new regulations intending to limit the use of seclusion and restraint in schools, the current policies are not sufficient to protect children. Preventing Seclusion and Restraint in Ohio's Schools, therefore, proposes alternative policies that would further limit the use of these aversive practices, with a goal of eliminating, or, at a minimum, reducing the use of seclusion and restraint in Ohio schools and better protecting all Ohio children from the profound harm that results from these practices.

February 1, 2015

School Resource Officers: Recommendations for Maximizing School Safety and Minimizing Risks to Ohio Children

This issue brief explains why schools and communities should reconsider adding police officers, often called School Resource Officers, to their school buildings. The presence of officers in schools greatly exacerbates the Cradle to Prison Pipeline and puts students at higher risk of being pushed out of school and into unnecessary involvement with the juvenile justice system. For those schools that do have School Resource Officers, the brief makes recommendations for how to integrate them into a positive school climate that minimizes the risks and maximizes safety.

August 15, 2013

Preventing Firearm Injuries and Fatalities Among Ohio’s Youth: The Need to Implement a Comprehensive and Effective Child Access Prevention Law in Ohio

In the wake of the Newtown massacre when 20 six and seven-year-olds were killed, we find compelling evidence that a new law could protect Ohio's children from such a tragedy. This CDF-Ohio policy brief calls for the Ohio legislature to enact a Child Access Prevention Law (CAP) law that would require all guns to be stored safely and securely in any place. Evidence shows that CAP laws prevent gun deaths and injuries among children and teenagers, and reduce the significant economic, psychological, and emotional costs from gun violence.

December 1, 2012

Juvenile Detention Reform in Ohio Update

As an update to the 2010 Juvenile Detention Reform Issue Brief and Fact Sheet, this issue brief highlights promising detention reform practices in Ohio and outlines a number of next steps that juvenile justice practitioners can take at the local and state levels.

December 1, 2012

Issue Brief: Zero Tolerance and Exclusionary School Discipline Policies Harm Students and Contribute to the Cradle to Prison Pipeline®

Out-of-school suspensions and expulsions—discipline practices that exclude children from school—have increased dramatically in the United States since the 1970s. This increase is largely due to schools’ overreliance on “zero tolerance” policies. Pushing students out of school does not assess the student’s underlying behavior or reach a long term solution. This issue brief outlines the problem of zero tolerance policies, including the disparate Impact on disabled, economically disadvantaged, and minority children and offers recommendations for policy change in Ohio.

November 1, 2012

Mental Health Screening in Juvenile Detention Facilities

CDF-Ohio and the Children’s Law Center, Inc. collaborated to raise awareness and support for juvenile pretrial detention reform in Ohio. This brief outlines the need for early mental health screening in detention centers, and supports the use of validated screening tools and provision of confidentiality to youth undergoing screening to ensure effective screening and treatment of youth.

October 1, 2012

Rethinking Juvenile Detention in Ohio

The Children’s Defense Fund – Ohio, the Children’s Law Center, Inc., Voices for Ohio’s Children and the Juvenile Justice Coalition – Ohio collaborate to increase awareness and support among key stakeholders and the general public for juvenile pretrial detention reform in Ohio. This brief supports the adoption of alternatives that will keep youth out of pretrial detention whenever possible, while maintaining community safety. This brief and the related Juvenile Detention Reform in Ohio Fact Sheet outline the current research and impact of juvenile pre-trial detention.

October 1, 2010

Juvenile Detention Reform in Ohio Fact Sheet

A companion to the issue brief, Rethinking Juvenile Detention in Ohio, this Fact Sheet provides an overview of juvenile detention and discusses the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).

October 1, 2010