S.H. v. Reed is a federal civil rights class action on behalf of all juveniles in the custody or under the supervision of the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS). Confined youth experienced a wide range of abuses including unnecessary use of force by staff; arbitrary and excessive use of discipline, isolation and seclusion; deficient mental health, medical, and dental care; inadequate education services; lack of structured programming and rehabilitative services; insufficient staffing and training of staff; unsafe living environments; a nonfunctional grievance system and a dysfunctional release system.
A comprehensive class action settlement was reached in April of 2008, requiring a series of reforms over a five year period. DYS has improved staffing levels, and increased staff training, revised use of force, seclusion and discipline policies, improved health (including mental health) services, and enhanced education and transition services. In addition to major improvements in conditions of confinement, the settlement agreement has led to the closure of several DYS facilities, a substantial reduction in the institutional population, an infusion of new resources into DYS operations, reformation of the process for release from DYS custody, and the expansion of community based programs.
A court appointed monitor oversees compliance with the settlement and issues monitoring reports at least annually. The Defendants have successfully implemented many of the reforms required by the settlement. However, Plaintiffs’ counsel has invoked the agreement’s dispute resolution process to enforce provisions regarding use of force in management of assaultive behavior and critical incidents, the operation of the release authority, the provision of education services to all eligible youth including youth in special management populations, and meal service. In the most recent resolved enforcement action, the court in December of 2011 approved a Stipulated Injunction that curtailed the use of adult corrections special tactics teams and pepper spray in DYS facilities. Plaintiffs continue to monitor the settlement.
Our co-counsel team is headed by Al Gerhardstein (lead trial counsel) of Gerhardstein & Branch Co., in Cincinnati, Ohio and also includes the Children’s Law Center in Covington, Kentucky; the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, in Cincinnati, Ohio and the law firm, Sirkin & Kinsley in Cincinnati, Ohio.