Court tests Youth Violence Summit to success


PORTSMOUTH- Recently, local professionals in law enforcement and the court system came together to host the first ever Scioto County Juvenile Court sponsored Youth Violence Summit at Shawnee State University’s Clark Memorial Library.

The event was held between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The summit was created to provide those most affected by violence with a platform to weigh in on how to create healthier and safer neighborhoods, according to Scioto County Juvenile Court’s Scot Isaac.

“We had interactive groups that focused on conflict resolution, mental health, alcohol and drug use, police-community relations and creating pathways to healthier lifestyles, activities, workforce training, and educational opportunities,” Isaac said. “Our opening session with the entire audience introduced them to the purpose of the summit and our keynote speaker, Thell Robinson III, spoke. The youth were split into four groups and went to each of our four breakout sessions and rotated every 25 minutes to the next session.”

Jocelyn Cooper, representing Directly Affected, spoke about the effects of drugs and alcohol with youth and how it affects them as well as how use around them by family members and caregivers affects them.

Adams County Juvenile Court’s The Hope Program and the Adams County Health Department covered trauma, outlining how behaviors and choices based on traumatic experiences impact mental health, wellbeing, and behavior.

The third session consisted of Juvenile Court Chief Probation Officer/Court Administrator Jeff Swords, Scioto County Prosecutor Shane Tieman, Assistant Prosecutor Jay Willis, Sheriff David Thoroughman and Portsmouth Police Chief Debbie Brewer talking with the youth in an open forum to discuss concerns, ideas, and strategies to help aid communities in reducing violence.

Isaac attributed great importance to connecting youth to local law enforcement and court officials.

“It is very important,” Isaac claimed. “Too often, our youth, as well as adults, view law enforcement as the enemy. Being able to bridge that gap and creating positive relationships between the youth and our law enforcement is key to helping reduce the number of crimes, be they violent or other, in our community. Working together is the only real way to make positive change.”

In addition, each group had the opportunity to visit, interact, get information, and speak to over 20 local agencies, programs and businesses who have resources, programs, and activities for the youth in our community.

The summit began being planned in October of 2023, when Judge Alan Lemons approached Isaac about a similar program in Washington D.C.

“He asked what my thoughts were on doing something similar here in Scioto County,” Isaac recalled. “I told him that it was something we definitely needed to do here. For me, it is a cause that is personal. I have been working at Scioto County Juvenile Court for over 19 years and I have seen too many youths lose their lives in ways that could have been avoided. I was challenged to work on organizing an event here for our youth and our community that would address our own issues we are currently facing. I decided the best way to do that would be to create an event that would allow us to hear from the voices of our youth as well as our community leaders.”

Isaac said that trends in the court system are indicative of a rising problem that he feels needs to be addressed while youth can develop better strategies for their overall wellbeing.

“Our community has suffered unfortunate loss of life in the past two years with juveniles in our community due to violent acts committed by other juveniles,” Isaac explained. “Approximately 60 percent of the cases filed in Scioto County Juvenile Court in 2023 were crimes of violence in one capacity or another.”

Isaac explained that Scioto County has resources year-round for youth facing issues with mental health problems, truancy, repeated behaviors of crime, and more. The summit was a great way to educate better strategies and hear from local leaders in a way that bridges a gap, but the county is always ready to assist at any point in the year.

“We have a lot of great resources and opportunities for the youth in our community. Juvenile Court’s Diversion Program is a great way to help try and address a lot of these issues,” Isaac said. “It provides the youth with an opportunity to be held accountable for their actions without having official Court involvement. Youth are sometimes referred to local providers who can provide more resources to help them improve and correct those behaviors as well as addressing any mental health or substance use issues. There are many providers in our area for mental health treatment, drugs and alcohol abuse, mentoring programs, after school clubs and activities ranging from music and the arts, gaming for the video game lovers, to more athletic oriented activities. For some of those, money may be a barrier but the biggest barrier that we have in this area is transportation. Getting to and from these has always been hard for people, especially our youth. Of course, we could always benefit from more because when it comes to our youth, too much is not enough.”

Isaac was pleased with the outcome of the summit and says that he is looking forward to continuing its success and watching statistics on a local level to see if it makes a changing impact on the youth.

“I feel like the event went very well,” Isaac explained. “Especially seeing as this was the first time I have ever attempted to create and organize an event of this nature and scope. Not only did I have the help of our probation department staff, but I also had volunteers from area agencies who helped keep everything running smoothly. We had 50 area youth present for this event who came together who listened, asked questions and spoke about issues that affect them here in the community. I think any time you can get that many youths in one place to tackle such important issues you have a success, no matter how anything else goes. We will see what kind of impact this event has in the coming weeks, months, and years but it’s a start towards addressing the issues.”

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2024 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

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