Sept. 2—ASHTABULA — A pair of judges from the 11th District Court of Appeals visited the Ashtabula County Juvenile Court’s Family Resource Center and spoke with Juvenile Court Judge Albert Camples about the program.
Camplese said, before the creation of the Family Resource Center, it wasn’t unusual for truant students to eventually be sent to jail for contempt for failing to follow a judge’s orders and go to school.
Judge Mary Jane Trapp said she came to Ashtabula to hear from Camples because the number of delinquency cases in the county dropped.
“I wondered why, and now I know,” she said. “These are really impressive, impressive numbers, about the decline, from 2009 to 2021, in the number of kids you’re sending to [Department of Youth Services facilities].”
Court Administrator Andrew Misiak said under their current system, staff are very focused on what is going on in the families of the youth who enter the court system, what brought them to this point and what can be done to change it.
Camples said there is one entry for youths into the system, instead of multiple.
“So we do sorting, if you will, as to where this behavior lies,” he said. “Are we using a sledgehammer for a thumb-tack problem? and that’s the question that we’re asking.”
Many of the staff started as probation officers then grew into the current system together, Camplese said.
“We just kept pushing the envelope and pushing the issue,” he said. “We’re doing, essentially, glorified parenting here.”
Camples said people often tell him youths who are in front of him need to be locked up.
“So, depending on how much time I have and how much fun I want to have, I’ll say ‘I guess, I respect your opinion and I know you’ve thought about it, I guess I’m not as liberal as you are,'” Campbell said. “‘You’re proposing that I lock them up, which means you’re prepared to pay for their housing, their food and their medicine, all that, on the hope that they’re not going to offend again, according to your theory. “
Youths who are sent to prison will either re-offend, at which point the public will have to pay for their incarceration, or likely not be able to find a job because of their criminal record, and end up using public assistance programs indefinitely, Camplese got
“I said, ‘I appreciate your liberal leanings, but I’m more conservative with my money,'” he said. “They know I’m being cute, but the point is that we’re focusing on identifying the problem.”
Youths do not need to be charged to come to the Family Resource Center, Camplese said.
Misiak said the Juvenile Court and Family Resource Center are attempting to break the cycle of multiple generations committing crimes.
When youths first come into the Resource Center, they are put in a room to let them cool down, Misiak said.
“We have a room here, it’s not padded or anything like that,” he said. “It’s a place where you can sit, relax, catch your breath, let’s give you some water, let’s find out what’s going on.”
The objective then is to find out what happened, assess the youth, and figure out what needs to be done right now.
Youths brought in by the police always have a court hearing the next day, Misiak said.
“We’re going to start services in place that day,” he said. “So if they need a mental health evaluation, they’re going to go across the street to Signature Health.”
Trapp said the program is wonderful.
“I’d like to see this in the adult system as well,” she said. “If you have people in crisis, especially if you have kids or families in crisis, and they come into the system and they’re just warehoused for a period of time, the situation … it’s not being addressed.”
Camplese also spoke about the space issues faced by the Juvenile Court.
They said the Juvenile Court is doing more with less, but they aren’t where they want to be yet.
Earlier this year, the Board of County Commissioners hosted a press conference with Camplese and Ashtabula City Manager Jim Timonere, at which the parties discussed the possibility of the county purchasing the Ashtabula Municipal Building to be used by the Juvenile Court.
On Thursday, Camplese said the Juvenile Court’s current location is inadequate.
“We have one main courtroom, which, when the blower kicks on, you can’t hear anything in the courtroom,” he said.
There is also a magistrate’s room.
“We currently have three magistrates and a judge,” Camplese said.
Camples said there is symbolism and formality that is necessary for what courts do, in order to be effective.
“That’s why I want to get us into a facility where we’re actually doing our jobs the way it was always intended, No. 1, from an aspirational standpoint,” Camplese said. “No. 2, we’ll then have adequate space for our staff to do what they’re doing.
“No. 3, we’re going to be able to take a youth and family and send them directly to the courtroom downstairs, then across the street [to Signature Health] or to other providers as necessary. So it’s going to be a tightening of the whole process,” he said.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner was initially scheduled to be at the event, but was unable to attend.