OHIO YAB Ambassador Todd Brooklyn and Lisa Dickson of ACTION Ohio spoke with Senator Manning yesterday, to thank him for his work on Ohio Senate Bill 288 and to ask for his future support in establishing a less punitive response for youth who run away, and ensure that their records are automatically expunged of this status offense when they enter young adulthood.
We shared with him that:
- The most common reason youth give for running away is seeking to escape a negative home environment.
- Across multiple studies of runaway youth, rates of physical abuse range from 40-60%.
- 34% of teens reported sexual abuse to the National Runaway Safeline as the reason why they left home.
- Youth who go missing for longer periods of time, and who travel farthest away, are most likely to have been abused previously.
- For those who run away to escape abuse, their biggest fear is being returned back to the abusive situation.
- According to the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, agencies are required to provide a counseling session after youth run away, to figure out why – but this doesn’t always happen.
- Too often, youth are returned to abusive situations and they often run away again.
Running away is considered a “status offense,” which is a noncriminal act that is considered a law violation only because of a youth’s status as a minor. In Ohio, status offenses are classified as “unruly children” – and there is no lower age specified for an “unruly child.” This means that a child as young as 10 years old who runs away to seek to escape an abusive situation could be charged with a status offense for doing so.
In addition, if the young person runs away again, the court can punish the youth with a term of secure confinement. These instances of secure confinement do nothing to help youth and can, in fact, make it more likely that young person engages in delinquent behavior in the future. From a federal sense, this is outdated policy. When the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was reauthorized in 2018, one of its core requirements was the deinstitutionalization of juveniles for status offenses.
During the call, Senator Manning shared that:
- He is glad we reached out to him about this issue because it is right up his alley.
- That he is concerned to hear that state of Ohio has no lower age limit on status offenses like running away.
- In his county youth aren’t charged for status offenses until they are at least 12 years old
- SB 288 has been getting a lot of pushback from law enforcement and prosecutors
- This might work well as a stand-alone bill, one that he would definitely support, to be introduced before the end of break. He believes this could be a good bipartisan bill.
- He is going to reach out to his friend who is a former juvenile judge, and think about additional state Senators and Representatives that might be a great fit to also support.
- He suggested that we could reach out to Representative Brian Stewart to see if this could be added as an amendment to his bind-over bill.