ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — Judge Albert Camplese was recognized with a state honor for the juvenile court’s efforts at local reform.

At a recent conference in Columbus, Camplese, juvenile court judge, received the Distinguished Service Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Your Local Community from the Ohio Association  of Juvenile Court Judges. The award was given in light of the court’s efforts at juvenile justice reforms, which are now more than a year in the making.

The county Youth Detention Center closed permanently April 30 and since that time youth and their families have been directed to the Juvenile Resource Center. The center opened in November of last year, and so far this year more than 500 youth and families have come through the doors.

The Resource Center, which is funded through grant money, aims to address the root problems that lead to juvenile crimes with the hope of preventing those juveniles from becoming adult offenders. Officials have said they routinely see adult offenders who were once in the juvenile system, and many of them began their criminal lives with offenses like truancy or unruly behavior as children that led them to higher-level offenses in adulthood.

All youth who come through the Juvenile Resource Center are given an assessment and screened for things like trauma and mental health issues. From there it’s determined where they will go and that could mean home, released with an ankle monitor, a relatives home or secure detention. Youth who commit serious offenses like felonious assault or felony-level domestic violence are still sent to detention in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

Camplese said although the award may outwardly appear to be recognition for his leadership as judge, it is more of a recognition of numerous people.

“What it actually is is the recognition of the success for our community and county as a whole,” Camplese said. “This award couldn’t be achieved without many people and institutions being open to the changes that we’re trying to make. The changes couldn’t be obtained absent strong county leadership, involvement of schools, law enforcement and most importantly my talented and dedicated staff who were willing to implement changes.”

Juvenile Court Administrator Andrew Misiak said it’s exciting to be a part of a team of people who want to realize reform in the youth justice system, which may ultimately lead to less crimes being committed in adulthood. 

“We’re thrilled people are starting to take notice of this not only in the county, but statewide,” Misiak said.