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16-year-old blamed for inciting group violence at Hamilton County youth center will stay there

Youth Center official: 'it could have easily turned into a hostage situation'
The Hamilton County Juvenile Court Youth Center has a near 40 percent vacancy for corrections officers.
Posted at 8:18 PM, May 04, 2023

CINCINNATI — A 16-year-old boy accused of starting a large group fight in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court Youth Center on April 27 will remain in the facility despite staff concerns that he continues to pose a threat to the safety of staff and other residents.

"It could have easily turned into a hostage situation," Andrae Jones said during a court hearing on Thursday.

Jones, the Deputy Director of Housing at the youth center, filed motions on Tuesday to transfer the 16-year-old and three other teen residents to the Hamilton County Justice Center. Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Kari Bloom denied his motion to transfer that 16-year-old to an adult jail.

The evidence against the boy included surveillance video that allegedly showed him as an instigator of the incident.

Jones told Bloom that staff had been concerned that the March 27 incident had the potential to get even worse.

"Where residents could have taken over the pod," he said. "Where staff is no longer in control of the pod."

Andrae Jones, Deputy Director of Housing at the Hamilton County Juvenile Court Youth Center, describes security issues at the facility during a juvenile court hearing
Andrae Jones, Deputy Director of Housing at the Hamilton County Juvenile Court Youth Center, describes security issues at the facility during a juvenile court hearing

Bloom told the teen that she was concerned about his safety and that the violence had to stop.

"I'll mind my own business," the boy told her. "I'll do the right thing."

Jones said that overcrowding in the facility makes it harder to separate youth and protect potential victims.

"So, moving them around, trying to separate them, keep them from each other becomes impossible," Jones told Bloom.

Jones' motions followed three consecutive days of violence beginning with the incident on April 27. Residents and staff have been injured in the incidents, according to Jones.

Bloom also denied the motion to transfer another teen resident.

She recused herself from a third case.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, which runs the Justice Center, had been "monitoring the situation and have had ongoing discussions with Judge Bloom," Chief Deputy Jay Gramke wrote in an email to WCPO 9.

Bloom granted the motion to transfer a 19-year-old resident serving his juvenile sentence at the youth center, even though defense and prosecuting attorneys agreed that there was no evidence he was involved in recent violence.

"He hasn't had a physical altercation since August of last year," Hamilton County Asst. Prosecutor Kate Buffington told Bloom. "That includes people trying to fight him."

The 19-year-old's attorney, Robert Jones, told Bloom that his client was finishing his classes at the youth center and transferring him to the Justice Center would set him back.

He told the judge she was violating the law by transferring him to an adult jail.

"Under the state statute, there's no basis for this decision and we will be appealing it," Jones told the judge. "The court has not made this decision for the best interest of the youth. It's made the decision for what's in the best interest of this court, which is not what the law states."

Bloom did not respond directly to that comment, but she stated many times during the hearings that she has the authority to transfer a juvenile to the adult jail.

After granting the motion to transfer the 19-year-old, Bloom said she was recusing herself from the case.

On Thursday afternoon, he was booked into the Justice Center.

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