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Statewide Felony Commitments to DYS 1997-2012:

2012: 524

2011: 687

2010: 831

2009: 1,216

2008:1,303

2007: 1,518

2006: 1,496

2005: 1,484

2004: 1,703

2003: 1,679

2002: 1,825

2001: 1,927

2000: 2,196

1999: 2,246

1998: 2,328

1997: 2,521

Source: Ohio Department of Youth Services

While the adult prison population continues to climb, state officials announced Thursday that the number of youths behind bars has dropped so much that Ohio will close the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility just north of Columbus in May.

The juvenile prison population declined 23 percent over the past two years and Ohio now detains 467 youths between the ages 13 and 21.

Scioto currently holds 38 offenders — 20 males and 18 females — and it is the state’s only lock-up for juvenile girls. The males will be reassigned to Ohio’s three other juvenile detention centers and the females will be put in private placement or community corrections beds, said Department of Youth spokeswoman Kim Parcell.

Over more than a decade, DYS has shifted away from state lock-ups and encouraged local communities to treat lower-risk juvenile offenders close to home. In 1997, Ohio had 2,561 youths in juvenile prisons. The number has steadily dropped over the past 15 years. The state has closed three other juvenile lock-ups in the past four years.

The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the union representing DYS workers, warned that the latest closure will shoe horn more juveniles into overcrowded community corrections facilities across the state.

“In the end, this is simply another outsourcing scheme to reduce wages, avoid accountability and degrade oversight,” said OCSEA President Christopher Mabe. “They’re moving youth to a less secure environment that has no track record of success. This is nothing but a dangerous shell game, and is completely unnecessary.”