It was 1992 and the field of juvenile corrections was a bleak business in Ohio. Faced with crowded juvenile institutions and a system that could not appreciate the costs and demands of operating state facilities, the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) was struggling to meet its mandate of incarcerating juvenile felony offenders committed to its custody. The average daily population was steadily increasing and a lack of funding options was exacerbating the situation. DYS decided to change the way it did business. That change was RECLAIM (Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternatives to the Incarceration of Minors) Ohio, a nationally recognized funding program for juvenile offenders that encourages courts to develop or purchase a range of community-based sentencing options.
Prior to RECLAIM Ohio, county and state funds were not strategically linked. DYS was allocated separate funding for state juvenile institutions. Counties had no control over these funds and, therefore, viewed committing offenders to DYS as a "free" option for placement. As a result, local courts had a fiscal incentive to commit youths to the state. It became apparent that many of the youths committed to the department -- particularly first-time, nonviolent offenders -- would be better-served in their local communities.
Approved by the state Legislature in 1993, RECLAIM was piloted in nine Ohio counties (of varied composition) in 1994, and was implemented statewide the following year. Through the leadership of Director Geno NatalucciPersichetti and Assistant Director Carol Rapp Zimmermann, customer service meetings were conducted to explain the concept and receive feedback from local judges. In addition, Gov. George V. Voinovich offered RECLAIM a great deal of support. Because this program essentially provides another subsidy for local governments, DYS existing subsidy unit administered (and still does) the RECLAIM program for Ohio's local juvenile justice infrastructure.
How It Works
RECLAIM represents a unique partnership between the state juvenile correctional system and local juvenile courts. Under the program, counties receive a yearly allocation from DYS for the treatment of youthful offenders. These funds were previously allocated specifically for the operation of state facilities but now are pooled and distributed to Ohio's 88 counties.
County allocation amounts are determined by the average number of felony adjudications for each county compared to the state's...