CLEVELAND — Ronnie Cannon of Cleveland was given a standing ovation during a Dec. 6 event hosted by Greater Cleveland Congregations designed to examine how Cuyahoga juveniles are bound-over to the adult justice system.
Cannon explained to the packed crowd of 300 how he was bound-over to adult court and jail after committing a violent crime in 1993 at the age of 16, a move Cannon believes impeded his ability to reform. Cannon, who is married, has children and owns his own home, believes too many minority juveniles who commit serious crimes are being tried as adults in Cuyahoga County and hopes there will soon be some changes.
“When I was thrust into it, it was like whirlwind, I wasn’t informed," Cannon said. “I remember them saying if you want to act like an adult, we’re going to treat you like an adult. Being carted over to the county jail, just being in there with adults, it was eye-opening.”
“It’s almost like a gateway, a pathway to incarceration in a subliminal manner," Cannon added. "And my belief is that our residents have to be more in tune with the kids that a walking the street. I think that they need to give more insight to the person versus just giving a broad stroke, despite what the offense is, really look at the person.”
Greater Cleveland Congregations told News 5 it's working to getting the Cuyahoga County Juvenile system to re-examine how the prosecutor's office request bind-overs for juveniles who commit serious crimes, and how juvenile judges grant those requests.
GCC pointed to Ohio court data compiled by the Children's Law Center which indicated Cuyahoga County sends the largest number of Black youth per capita to adult court of any county in Ohio. The data also indicated less than 30% of Cuyahoga County’s population are persons of color; yet 91% of youth bound over to the adult system in our county are Black or Brown. GCC reported also reported Cuyahoga County binds over many more youth than similar urban counties. From 2018-2020, its bindover rate was six times higher than Franklin County and four times higher than Hamilton County. Yet, no policy or plan exists to reduce the practice of bindover in Cuyahoga County.
Greater Cleveland Congregations, Executive Director, Keisha Krumm told News 5 her agency is set to meet with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office about bind-over procedures in the first quarter of 2023.
“It’s one of thee issue that if we don’t talk about it people don’t know," Krumm said. “We think we’re at crisis standpoint in our community when it comes to this issue of discretionary bind-overs. The prosecutor request a juvenile bind-over and judge then grants or denies that bind- over."
"We think that it is critical that there is re-evaluation of the way discretionary bind-over is used,” Krumm added. “Work with that child, deal with the consequences of their actions, but then also put them in a situation where they can be rehabilitated. We want to start looking at other ways to engage our children who have committed serious crimes, but also think about the resources that happened even before they get involved in the juvenile system."
Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court responded to News 5 with the following statement:
In regards to bindovers, our Juvenile Court Judges are responsible to follow the law as written in R.C. 2152.12 in regards to both mandatory and discretionary bind-overs. Our current Juvenile Court Judges were not invited to attend the event tonight. We cannot speak to the validity or accuracy of the claims the GCC is making in regards to data as we have not been included in any discussions. The below data is valid year to date in regards to 2022.
Our Court is always looking for increased connection and collaboration with our community partners and would welcome the GCC to be included in the many community partners and stakeholders working together to serve our children and families
Cuyahoga Juvenile Court told News 5 it's simply following state guidelines.
Meanwhile, Cannon is hoping the county juvenile system will re-evaluate its bind-over process in the coming months.
“It should be meeting of the minds, not only with the justice system itself, but bringing community stakeholders to the table as well," Cannon said. “People are always talking about, 'hey give individuals a second chance when they haven’t been issued a first chance.'”