COUNTY COUNCIL REJECTS PROPOSED FUNDING FOR THE JUVENILE PUBLIC DEFENDER TO BE ABLE REPRESENT THE VAST MAJORITY OF YOUTH FACING BINDOVER TO ADULT COURT AND INCARCERATION IN ADULT PRISON!
On Monday, November 20th, at County Council’s budget hearing, Council voted 9-2 to undo the County Executive’s proposal to reallocate $650,000 from the 2025 Juvenile Court budget for private assigned counsel to the Public Defender’s office. This funding would have enabled the Public Defender’s office to represent the vast majority of youth facing transfer to adult court, 90% of whom are black and brown males. This vote was despite information provided to Council (see attached) demonstrating the superior record of the Public Defender in succeeding to keep youth in the juvenile justice system where rehabilitation and other services are the focus. In addition, Cuyahoga County is the only urban county that does not refer 100% of youth bindover cases, minus conflicts, to the Public Defender.
Although we did not prevail in this initial battle, the fight is not over! Without GCC’s public advocacy with the County Executive and at all 3 budget hearings, no increase in funding the Public Defender would have been considered and no change in the handling of youth bindover cases would have even been debated before the County Council. We are encouraged that several Council members acknowledged GCC’s role in the process and have expressed an intent to continue to pursue this issue to delve deeper into the details. BUT, the power structure of the Council, the Courts and the County Prosecutor are very entrenched and do not want to change. It is up to us to keep the pressure on the decision makers. We will keep you apprised of GCC’s ongoing efforts to hold County Council accountable to seriously address funding for the Juvenile Public Defender to be able to represent the vast majority of our youth facing bindover to adult courts.
We will keep you informed of next steps in our work with County Executive Ronayne and Council members and how you can help. And in early 2024, GCC will be planning a candidates forum for Juvenile Court judgeships and County Prosecutor. Your continued support of GCC as we seek to speak truth to power is important and appreciated.
GCC Core Team
Kathy Hanna Stauffer