1996 Finalist
State of Ohio
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

Prior to the creation of RECLAIM Ohio, the funding for state correctional programs created a fiscal incentive to commit young offenders to state incarceration. Juvenile judges wanted to sanction and treat less serious offenders locally, but committing juveniles to state facilities was "free" to counties. For less serious local alternatives, judges had to turn to their court's budgets.

From a treatment standpoint, judges and the Department of Youth Services (DYS) understood that rehabilitation becomes much more difficult once first time, low-level offenders are put in state facilities with more severe, repetitive offenders. Prior to the creation of RECLIAM Ohio, DYS institutions were at more than 180 percent of capacity. And, at a cost over $100 a day per incarcerated teen, the cost to taxpayers was significant.

RECLAIM Ohio is a funding initiative which encourages juvenile courts to develop or purchase a range of community-based options to meet the needs of each juvenile offender or youth at risk of offending. By diverting youth from DYS institutions, courts have the opportunity to increase the funds available locally through RECLAIM. The majority of funds allocated by the state legislature to DYS are distributed based on the level of delinquency in the given county. This system allows judges to choose whether the resources should go to existing state facilities, or they may purchase, expand and develop local services. This reallocation of funds has fostered a constructive relationship between state and local juvenile justice systems in which proper jurisdictional equilibrium creates efficient solutions.

RECLAIM Ohio's main goal is to use "state tax dollars to reclaim youthful offenders into peaceful society in the most cost efficient way." Practically, this means targeting resources to maximize the chances of a juvenile's return to his or her community as a productive, law-abiding citizen. By empowering local judges with state funds, frontline decisions can be made based on each county's type of juvenile problems.

Assessment of program progress is measured by three factors: the number of youth served at the local level, the number served at the state level, and the percentage of youth served locally who are successfully diverted from DYS incarceration. Two years after the program's inception 1,038 youth offenders were served in local programs funded by RECLAIM Ohio. This is a testament to the need for local treatment capabilities. The result of this increase has been a 43 percent decrease in commitments to state facilities and an overall shift of $17.6 million from state to local systems.