The Juvenile Probation Department is firmly committed to the Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) framework which emphasizes a response to juvenile delinquency that focuses on accountability, public safety, competency development, and victim reparation. The department’s two Probation Officers, Dustin Stark and Renee Watts, strive to hold juvenile offenders accountable for delinquent activity, while providing referrals to resources that reduce criminal behavior and increase the ability of youth to live productively and responsibly in the community.
By utilizing the Ohio Youth Assessment System (OYAS), a youth is screened/assessed for risk level in seven domains (criminal history, family, education/employment, pro-social skill sets, substance abuse/mental health/personality, peers and antisocial attitudes). While risk level in the individual domains assist staff in referring a youth to appropriate services, the overall risk level of the OYAS directs us in placing a youth on the appropriate level of probation/community control supervision.
The Ohio Revised Code, section 2151.14 mandates and defines the duties and powers of the juvenile probation department. Under the direction of the Judge(s), these duties include, but are not limited to: case investigation, dispositional recommendations, and supervision to any youth placed on Juvenile Probation.
The department recognizes that accountability for the offender means accepting responsibility and acting to repair the harm done to people and communities. The department embraces the importance the role the family plays in each youth’s response to supervision, and requires parents and/or guardians to participate in the youth’s treatment plan, as well as other programs to which the youth and family are referred.
Juvenile Diversion Program
Whenever possible, the Court tries to provide an alternative method of dealing with delinquent conduct when the conduct does not constitute a serious offense. The Juvenile Court operates a diversion program which allows the youth to avoid more serious consequences by accepting responsibility for his or her actions, performing community service, and paying court costs and fees.
The Morrow County Court of Common Pleas received grant monies from the Ohio Department of Youth Services in 2014 to hire a Juvenile Diversion Officer, a position currently filled by Richelle Ettel. Diversion consists of four major components: diversion, clinical assessments, educational services and information & awareness programs.
The core of the Diversion Department is the Diversion Hearing. This is an alternative to formal prosecution. First time offenders appear in front of a hearing officer, not the Judge or magistrate, and must admit to the complaint signed against them. Each youth’s needs are assessed; referrals to community agencies made, and dispositional guidelines and rules are established. Diversion is a short-term program; the monitoring period is structured to last no more than 90 days. However, cases may remain open until the youth complete disposition. Diversion served 53 youth during calendar year 2015, with an 83% success rate.