Candidates for Juvenile Court judge offer editorials

Both candidates in Hamilton County's Juvenile Court Judge race have strong opinions about how the court has been and should be run. Candidate Jennifer Branch has recently offered her perspective on the court and changes she would make as administrative judge in an editorial to the Cincinnati Enquirer, "Opinion: Court not doing enough for kids." Candidate Judge John Williams has offered an editorial in response, "Opinion: Juvenile court a national model."

In her editorial, Branch, a local civil rights attorney, claims that the Juvenile Court can do better, citing concerns that the court has declined to participate in "evidence-based programs that improve outcomes," in the way that courts in other Ohio counties have done. Branch expresses concern that only 25 children per year are served by the Juvenile Court's mental health court and that the arrest rate for children has increased recently, despite falling juvenile crime rates statewide. She also references a 2008 consent decree from a case litigated by her firm and the Children's Law Center, stating that this has led to a significant reduction of juveniles in the prison system and critiquing the system for requiring a class action suit to make this change.

Williams, sitting administrative judge since his appointment in 2011, counters Branch's claims with his own editorial defending the Juvenile Court. Williams cites court achievements, such as forming a partnership to save Hillcrest Training School to keep locally based treatment for youth and families, achieving a 95% graduation rate for children in foster care who are enrolled in Cincinnati Public Schools as part of the Kids in School Rule! program, and the significant reduction in numbers of children sent to the Department of Youth Services from 1994 to 2014. Williams also defends the court's mental health services, stating that they provide services for thousands of adults and children every year.

Both candidates will be on the ballot in Hamilton County this Election Day, Tuesday November 4.