By The Associated Press
USA TODAY Network Ohio. November 12, 2023.
Editorial: Ohio is creating ‘monsters’ at youth prisons. DeWine must act now to save kids
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is a champion for meaningful education reform and youth mental health services.
You may not agree with his approach, but few can deny he has a heart for Ohio’s children.
That’s one reason why it’s so disturbing that troubled children under the state’s care are being treated in ways that stray so far from the decency and compassion valued by DeWine and Ohioans.
Instead of rehabilitation and human dignity, youth offenders housed in Ohio’s dangerously shattered Department of Youth Services facilities are often exposed to violence and neglect.
DYS teaching kids to be more ruthless
This chaos uncovered by an eight-month investigation by the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository and other USA TODAY Network Ohio newsrooms goes far beyond simple fistfights.
Incarcerated youth and DYS employees are far too often subjected to mental and emotional torture, life-altering injuries and, in rare cases, death.
At times, youths are kept in isolation for hours — sometimes forced to urinate in bottles and other containers and defecate in the corners of their cells.
A system that is supposed to make kids better is creating career criminals or “monsters,” as one mother interviewed as part of the investigation put it.
Ohio children released from one of the department’s three prisons — Indian River, Circleville or Cuyahoga Hills — have a 43% shot of returning or “graduating” to adult prison.
We realize the youths imprisoned in DYS facilities are no angels — they were sentenced for crimes as despicable as armed robbery, rape and murder — but these kids are not disposable.
They are human.
They deserve a shot at rehabilitation. Their parents deserve to see them come home as healthy as they entered. The families of DYS staffers have the same expectation for their loved ones.
It is the governor’s responsibility to make sure that happens. His administration is failing the youths, their families, DYS workers and the people of Ohio.
What Ohio gets for $100 million annually
This is about human decency not money, but it is outrageous that Ohioans do not get more rehabilitated young citizens for the millions of dollars that youth services receives annually.
We shell out $236,000 a year for each incarcerated youth with the expectation that even those who have committed the most serious crimes can be reformed. Instead, cruelty is doled out in our names.
The state has failed in its responsibility to these Ohio kids — particularly by not having enough workers to cover stations and leaving kids in lockdown over long periods of time. These issues have led to a long list of violence, including a 12-hour riot at Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility a year ago.
Violent incidents in DYS prisons rose by nearly 60% between 2020 and 2022.
According to the newspapers’ reporting, there were 475 violent acts between January and May 2023 alone. That number includes assaults on 226 kids and 83 staff members. Nearly 20 kids required emergency room treatment.
This is unacceptable and cannot continue.
DeWine must clean house at DYS
The buck stops with the governor.
He appointed Amy Ast as DYS director in December 2021. If she does not resign, DeWine should fire her for allowing children under her care to be treated like animals.
Ast and other administrators have been unable to make critical improvements and made it difficult to understand what’s really happening.
Cleaning house means promptly dismissing these failed leaders — not merely reassigning them as has been the case in the past.
The responsibility to right this ship is not the governor’s alone.
Lawmakers should abandon distracting and divisive culture-war battles and apply pressure until improvements are made. Ohioans must make sure representatives prioritize the safety of vulnerable youths and underpaid staffers.
We realize removing Ast won’t fix DYS. A complete overhaul might. Fixing the system should be among DeWine’s top goals, starting with several priorities.
Address a serious staff shortage
A staff shortage was blamed a year ago when Indian River guard David Upshaw was attacked by a youth offender during the riot. He was in charge of a unit by himself. The staffing problems persist, with about 140 job openings for guards and other staffers.
One in five teacher jobs are open. Nearly half of incarcerated teens need specialized education.
A list of employee problems that includes retention, recruitment and training remains.
DYS must let the light shine in
There must be transparency and better oversight of youth prisons and separate county-run detention centers.
Information about serious crimes at DYS prisons and other facilities should be far more accessible, with centralized reporting of deaths, serious injuries and major crimes.
DYS must be more transparent about crimes committed by its staff, including smuggling drugs and other contraband. Physical and sexual abuse must be reported and investigated.
Federal government must investigate
DeWine has the power to improve DYS, but systematic change often does not come without a lawsuit or a federal investigation.
It was not easy for reporters to uncover the despicable conditions at DYS.
The newspapers’ investigation is surely a mere glimpse of what happens. Federal investigators can dig much deeper.
Reporters ran into multiple roadblocks that required legal assistance to overcome. Some public information requests still have not been fulfilled.
As the investigation proceeded, DYS required employees to re-sign confidentiality agreements indicating they would not reveal information about incarcerated children without authorization.
Ast would only respond to reporter questions in writing and her answers were vague, full of public relations spin or insufficient.
Ast was asked: Within three years of release, 43% of previously incarcerated children return to the juvenile system or go to adult prison. What is being done to lower the recidivism rate?
She answered: At every point, incarcerated juveniles are given services, such as education and job training, designed to increase the likelihood of success once they return to the community. The 43% recidivism rate is lower than it was 10 years ago, but there is still room for improvement.
The Justice Department should step in to ascertain if any civil rights have been violated.
Treat youth offenders with dignity
Efforts should be made to help young offenders get on the right track in life so that the mistakes of their past do not dictate their futures.
Any system that dehumanizes kids must be scrapped.
The success of programs like the Marion County Family Resource Center shows that there are holistic approaches that can be explored to replace Ohio’s child warehousing system. That program is less expensive — about $600,000 annually for 15 youths compared to the $236,000 that Ohioans pay annually for one child in DYS — and delivers better outcomes.
Children are not adults and should not be treated liked hardened criminals.
Ohioans are caring, compassionate and forgiving. We need a juvenile detention system that matches those values. These children are not beyond hope.
DYS is a broken system that must be fixed before more lives are irrevocably damaged or in extreme cases lost. We must help these children rejoin society.
Anything short of that is a failure.
What you can do
We urge you to contact DeWine and tell him how dissatisfied you are with Ohio’s youth prisons.
Visit governor.ohio.gov/contact to send DeWine a message. Or mail to Riffe Center, 30th Floor, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215. Call 614-644-4357.
Cleveland Plain Dealer. November 7, 2023.
Editorial: Chastening results – Nov. 7 should remind elected officials it’s the people’s voice that counts
Ohio’s elected leaders did what they could to suppress the people’s will, but Nov. 7 showed that on abortion rights, on marijuana rights, the people’s will would not be denied, even by a vocal but vociferous minority. And therein lies a lesson: Those who would aspire to lead Ohio and represent Ohioans need to listen to all the people, not just the narrow ideologues who tend to shell out money for campaigns or shout the loudest or win elections thanks to Ohio’s extreme gerrymanders.
What’s more, those who aspire to govern also need to remember that the people’s trust is everything.
In Cleveland, hard on the heels of Issue 24 on police oversight came this fall’s Issue 38 on the People’s Budget. And whether or not Issue 38 passes — which at deadline for this editorial was still uncertain — unless Cleveland officials change course to be more open to mechanisms to elevate often unheard voices and positions, next year or the year after or the year after that may bring another charter-change proposal.
Why? Because City Hall too often acts as if public protests are annoyances, not warnings, and fails to listen, fails to compromise. Cleveland City Council earlier this year had a chance to partner with activists, at the urging of Mayor Justin Bibb and some of their colleagues, to take on a smaller experiment in participatory budgeting, but balked. Advocates got the message. But wouldn’t it have been far better to develop this project cooperatively, not via all-or-nothing charter changes?
If the idea is to encourage trust in government, just saying “no” doesn’t cut it.
This lesson is statewide. Years of polling have shown that Ohioans reject extremist abortion legislation that would force raped girls and women to carry their rapist’s child to term. Nov. 7’s Issue 1 results showed that the polls didn’t lie.
Yet lawmakers still passed and Gov. Mike DeWine still signed into law the 2019 “heartbeat” law, with no exceptions for rape or incest, and making it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion when a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected — criminalizing abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant in a state economically buoyed by its health care and medical excellence.
Ohio’s “heartbeat” law took effect upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, but after a number of months in force, it was stayed by the courts. Yet even the possibility of this law coming back into force may have acted powerfully to counteract Issue 1 opponents’ fearmongering and exaggerations about what Issue 1 would mean if it passed.
Issue 2, the recreational marijuana issue, provides another example of Ohioans telling Statehouse leaders via their Nov. 7 votes how it is — and has been in Ohioans’ views for a while. Unlike Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that can’t be altered except by another constitutional amendment, Issue 2 is an initiated statute, that is, a law initiated and passed by the voters. That means, in theory, that the Ohio General Assembly can amend it or even repeal it, if it so wishes.
It’s unlikely lawmakers would just try to wipe this measure from the books, given its strong margin of victory — that is, if legislators believe in listening to the will of voters, which they should. But Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman has already signaled he may try to alter how the measure divides up the goodies, or that he might take on the jobs and social equity fund Issue 2 creates. Cleveland.com’s Laura Hancock reports Huffman opposes the fund, intended to provide grants and loans to minorities, women and those negatively impacted by marijuana criminalization.
A lack of trust in government can be revealed in voter turnout, too. Despite Issue 38 on the ballot promising Clevelanders a stronger voice in budgeting, turnout still lagged — as of 11 p.m., just 29% citywide, and a mere 13.4% in Ward 5 in the Central, Kinsman and nearby neighborhoods. That compared with nearly 45% countywide.
So, the corollary of listening to the voters is engaging with the voters, to reinforce that every vote matters, not just to those in power, but to the voters, as well.
Toledo Blade. November 11, 2023.
Editorial: DeWine bored by ethics
Appointing a director for the governor’s new Department of Education and Workforce who resigned as state superintendent following an ethics investigation is the wrong way to kick off this new effort to boost the quality of public education in Ohio.
Gov. Mike DeWine recently named Steve Dackin to be his first DEW director.
As vice president of the State Board of Education Mr. Dackin last year chaired the search committee for a new superintendent.
While serving on that committee and having an insider’s advantage, including seeing all the other candidates’ applications, Mr. Dackin began to propose himself for the job.
He was appointed but then resigned 11 days later after the Ohio Ethics Commission started an investigation. He signed a settlement agreement with the commission stating he may have violated the law through his dual roles in leading the candidate search and taking the job.
Mr. Dackin has the credentials for the position as a former school superintendent in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and an administrator at Columbus State Community College.
The circumstances of his becoming (briefly) the superintendent appear suspicious, if only because of all the other corruption going on in Columbus.
Mr. DeWine has shown no interest in clearing the Columbus swamp and is not entirely free of the whiff of corruption himself. He has made no effort to get the legislature to enact much-needed reforms requiring disclosure of how lobbyists are paid to influence legislators.
Youngstown Vindicator. November 8, 2023.
Editorial: Lawmakers must adapt Ohio laws to present
In pitching state Senate Bill 138 to revise Ohio’s franchise law and give small craft brewers more flexibility to deal with wholesalers, state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, said the old law “was written for the market of 50 years ago.”
” … Distributors worth hundreds of millions of dollars do not need protection from our local neighborhood breweries,” he said, according to a report by the Ohio Capital Journal, “and it’s time state law reflected that.”
As Brenner does his work in the state Senate to free craft brewers of the crushing weight of laws written to restrain large brewers back in the 1970s, state Reps. Brett Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville, and Tim Barhorst, R-Fort Loramie, are trying the same in the House.
Both efforts aim to maintain contract restrictions on large brewers, but impose a floor of 250,000 barrels. The House bill also amends the state-permitting system to ensure brewers falling below the 250,000-barrel floor can continue to sell beer on site or directly to retailers, according to the Capital Journal.
“Under current Ohio law craft brewers have no negotiating power, no recourse and no way out of these unfair contracts,” Ohio Craft Brewers Association executive director Mary MacDonald said back in May.
But according to Brenner, the proposed change would “not in any way jeopardize distributors’ business, but instead provide the freedom for both parties to negotiate contracts and enforce those contracts like any other service agreement.”
Very few industries look today as they did in the mid-1970s. While lawmakers are to be commended for looking at updating the rules for brewers, Brenner’s remark about laws written for a market of 50 years ago should ring through discussion of the rules governing a broad range of industries in Ohio.
If we’ve not done a good job of adapting for this one, what else have we missed? Where else is the law standing in the way of expanding and diversifying our economy?
Leaders in industries across the state can probably help with the answer. All lawmakers have to do is ask.
Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. November 10, 2023.
Editorial: Respect the will of voters
The people have spoken, but it doesn’t appear that Ohio’s Republican legislative leaders were listening.
More likely, they just don’t care.
That helps explain why they have insisted they would continue to try to restrict abortion access despite voters’ approval Tuesday of Issue 1, an amendment that enshrined abortion and other reproductive rights in the Ohio Constitution.
“I remain steadfastly committed to protecting life, and that commitment is unwavering,” Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, said. “The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life. This is not the end of the conversation.”
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, had similar thoughts.
“This isn’t the end,” he said. “It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.”
We doubt that most Ohioans are looking forward to an endless cycle of anti-abortion campaigns.
We also doubt such efforts will be successful. It’s become clear since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the court decision that had protected abortion rights since 1973, that most voters favor abortion access.
In other words, Republicans and their pro-life allies should not be surprised that Issue 1 passed with the support of roughly 57 percent of Ohio voters.
That’s roughly the same percentage of voters who rejected a proposed amendment Republicans had put forward in a pricey special election in August. It was designed to make Ohio’s Constitution harder to amend and was specifically aimed at preventing passage of an abortion-rights amendment.
In Lorain County, unofficial election results Tuesday also largely mirrored what happened in August. Around 62.4 percent of county voters supported Issue 1 on Tuesday. Around 62.8 percent of county voters opposed making the Constitution harder to amend in August.
The trend isn’t limited to Lorain County and Ohio.
Voters have turned out in droves over the past year to protect abortion access, even in deep red states such as Kansas, Kentucky and Montana, as Republicans moved to impose draconian abortion laws.
Abortion was a key factor in other races Tuesday.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat who campaigned on abortion access, won reelection. Virginia Democrats won full control of the state’s two legislative chambers even though Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigned for GOP candidates on a promise to impose a 15-week abortion ban if voters would only give his party full control of the state legislature.
Confronted with the clear likelihood that a majority of Ohio voters would support abortion rights, abortion foes sought to distort what Issue 1 would do.
For example, they tried to scare voters with bogus claims about rampant late-term abortions, the loss of parental rights and easy access to transgender care for minors. The latter two weren’t mentioned at all in the amendment’s text, and the former was misleading because Issue 1 specifically allows abortions to be limited after fetal viability. (Exceptions, such as for the life and health of the mother, would allow abortions later in a pregnancy, but those are rare circumstances.)
Republicans don’t appear to have learned much from the failure of their fearmongering, either. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, some insisted that Issue 1’s proponents bamboozled voters.
No. Voters knew what they were doing. Republicans just didn’t like the decision.
The Republican legislative leaders’ response to Issue 1’s passage also again made clear the problem with the extreme gerrymandering the GOP has used to ensure it has veto-proof majorities in the Ohio House and Senate.
When the legislative leaders talk about heeding the will of the people, as they are wont to do, they’re not really referring to the electorate writ large. They’re talking about the base voters who decide Republican primaries, where the majority of state legislative elections are truly decided.
GOP primary voters do tend to oppose abortion access, but, as the election results Tuesday showed, they don’t speak for the majority of Ohioans on the issue.
Nor is abortion the only issue about which Republicans think they know better than the majority of voters, who approved recreational marijuana by passing Issue 2 on Tuesday. It passed with about 59.4 percent of the vote in Lorain County and with just under 57 percent statewide.
Because Issue 2 is a citizen-initiated law, state lawmakers can change or even repeal it, unlike a constitutional amendment, which requires another amendment to alter.
Thankfully, talk of an all-out repeal seems to have abated, but Republican legislators are openly mulling tinkering with Issue 2. Provisions they’re interested in changing govern, among other things, the distribution of excise taxes collected from marijuana sales and the allowable levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Such changes would be premature. We have yet to see how the law, which doesn’t go into effect until Dec. 7, will work in practice. Perhaps changes will be necessary, but the proper time to enact them would be after problems reveal themselves.
Besides, Republican lawmakers could have legalized recreational marijuana in their own way, but they chose not to. Instead, they ignored changing societal attitudes on marijuana, and the result was voters making Ohio the 24th state to legalize recreational marijuana. It won’t be the last.
Voters were clear about what they wanted when it comes to abortion and recreational marijuana.
Republican leaders should pay attention.