(WKBN) — This week, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford spoke with Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains for our In-Depth segment about the process of juveniles in the system transitioning to adults.

The issue of juvenile records and expungement and how that affects his office.

“First off, under Ohio law, juvenile records are sealed. The public cannot access juvenile records under the law. Law enforcement can access them. The military can access them. But keep in mind that the function of the juvenile court is not necessarily to convict people, but the juvenile court is there to try to assist these juveniles, and as is my juvenile division, we attempt to assist them. Where there are particular heinous crimes, and it doesn’t appear that the juvenile is amenable to the facilities and the programs that the juvenile court offers or even the department of Youth Services offers. Then we will ask that the case be bound over to the Common Pleas Court and that the juvenile would be treated as an adult. Of course, then if that juvenile is convicted and sentenced to prison, then, of course, he or she can avail themselves of the programs that the prison offers regarding eventually becoming released…The Supreme Court has actually now said that a juvenile has to be allowed to have parole. I believe it’s 25 years. So the law recognizes that there should be a light at the end of the tunnel for these young people that are convicted of serious crimes,” said Gains.

The question then comes to mind is Gains seeing these juveniles now as adults within the system?

“Oh, we’ve seen many of the juveniles that were convicted of small, minor offenses. Yeah. They come through. Not all of them, but a good number of them come through the system as adults because they haven’t changed their ways. What I have found is that as people get older, they’re less likely to recommit. So for those that say, well, ‘I’m unemployable, I can’t get a job.’ Sure you can. You can get a job because there are programs available to you to offer training, and many of them do avail themselves of that because they want to leave the life. They don’t want to be part of that life anymore, and it just takes a while for them to realize it,” said Gains.

So is recidivism an issue that Gains faces within his office?

“Every police department and every prosecutor’s office faces the same people that come across, especially in the municipal courts, because those are usually minor offenses. But oftentimes, again, those people have mental health issues that caused them to recidivate or recommit. But yeah, you’re going to see the same people, at least on the minor offenses, the more serious ones. We don’t see them as often because normally they are. If we get the evidence, we do send them to prison so we don’t see them for a while. But of course, you’re going to see some of them come back. Yes,” said Gains.

Next, we’re going to talk about mental health and the impact that it is having on the criminal justice system.