In March 2021, the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center at Lima was closed due to multiple credible allegations of physical, sexual, and mental abuse perpetrated by staff against children held in their custody. In addition, staff, residents, and a mental health clinician attested to substandard physical conditions, a dearth of quality services, and a pervasive culture of fear within the center. At the time of its closure, the 66-bed Lima facility housed six young people. Subsequent inspection of the facility revealed multiple structural and functional defects to the building, including graffiti, inoperable surveillance cameras, and multiple blind spots where the alleged abuse took place. In response to the facility’s closure, the County Council convened a Juvenile Detention Board of Managers to: (a) reopen a new detention center or otherwise ensure safe housing for detained youth and (b) examine the use of detention more broadly.
Through her Stoneleigh Fellowship, Anne Marie Ambrose is partnering with the National Assessment Center Association and the Center for Children’s Law and Policy to perform a baseline analysis of Delaware County’s youth justice continuum, develop a diversion system assessment, and provide recommendations for improvement. In particular, she is gathering and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data to identify alternatives to detention and justice system involvement and work with organizational partners to operationalize the identified opportunities.
The Stoneleigh Fellowship will enable Anne Marie to:
- Review and document the current Delaware County youth justice process, including existing community-based diversion programs and alternative services.
- Inform the development of an intervention map that depicts how youth move through the justice system and where opportunities exist for improved responses.
- Create an implementation team (and eventual advisory board) composed of key stakeholders, youth, and community partners to build consensus and buy-in and to guide inclusive efforts for an improved and more equitable youth justice system.