Black Futures Matter

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

I’m grieving the loss of potential, what could’ve been allowed if they possessed the freedom to live the full length and the full width of life. A loss of hope and anticipation for many futures that may never be.      – Laura Morgan Roberts                                                                       

Judge Denise Navarre Cubbon’s sudden retirement on September 30 sent ripples through the community, highlighting the pivotal role of juvenile justice in determining the trajectory of young Black lives. Her departure has ignited community-wide discourse, grappling with overarching concerns about systemic discrimination and the juvenile justice system’s philosophical orientations.

Cubbon understood 30 years ago that young individuals who have spent time in detention facilities have a higher tendency to re-offend and are thus on the treacherous road of no return to the adult prison pipeline.

She was also conversant with current research in the juvenile justice field that underscored the enduring adverse effects experienced by young people post-incarceration. These include a sense of alienation from school and family, experiences of trauma and depression, association with negative peer groups, and a heightened probability of further interactions with the juvenile system.

Perhaps most notably, Cubbon took seriously the data which revealed that Black and Brown youth were being detained at much higher rates although they committed offenses at roughly the same rate as white youth.

With her emphasis on rehabilitation and diversity, Judge Cubbon prioritized diversionary practices and management strategies to prevent the irreversible tarnishing of young Black lives for youthful indiscretions.

However, the void left by Cubbon’s abrupt departure and the consequent gubernatorial power to appoint her successor have prompted intense community and political reflection, creating a state of anticipation and concern. There’s a prevailing worry that Governor Mike DeWine’s decision might signify a political and philosophical shift towards a more punitive, “law and order, get tough” stance contrasting sharply with Cubbon’s rehabilitative focus.

As this political chess game unfolds, prominent figures such as Vallie Bowman English, Monica Yvonne from ABLE, and Juvenile Magistrate Carmille Akande are emerging as potential Democratic contenders against the anticipated Republican appointee. There are also whispers circulating around Anita Lopez, the current Lucas County Auditor, though confirmation regarding her candidacy remains elusive.

Still, the community is marked by a discernible sense of frustration and a dwindling tolerance towards youth violence, especially firearms-related incidents. While the prevalent issues of racial and ethnic disparities weaken the credibility of a justice system that purports to treat everyone equitably, discussions surrounding Cubbon’s retirement reveal a juxtaposition of perceived leniency against a clamor for more stringent measures. At the same time, diversity and overrepresentation entwine with broader societal challenges like drug use, poverty, and the availability of liquor, creating an extraordinarily tangled landscape that Cubbon’s successor must navigate meticulously.

Adding another layer to this complex puzzle is the ongoing opioid crisis, demanding balanced and nuanced decisions around child custody, neglect or abuse and interventions that consider their long-term ramifications on families and communities.

However, it is essential to contextualize that arrests of juveniles for severe violent offenses are relatively rare, constituting approximately five percent of all juvenile arrests, while the overwhelming majority of detentions are for non-violent or sometimes even non-criminal actions like probation violations.

Yet, the collective apprehension lingers. Will Cubbon’s successor maintain the rehabilitative ethos, or will there be a paradigmatic shift towards more punitive methodologies that resurrect the harmful detention overreliance of the distant past?

The successor’s journey will undoubtedly be fraught with complexities, demands, and expectations. The philosophical and ideological battleground that unfolds will accentuate the critical need for a blend of rehabilitation, rule of law, diversity, representation, and systemic efforts to reduce detention overreliance.

The evolution of this scenario will be pivotal in shaping the trajectory of the juvenile justice system and, consequently, determine whether the lives of numerous young Black and Brown individuals matter.


Judge Cubbon recognized that the harmful effects of detention necessitate developing and implementing a spectrum of alternatives, focusing on holistic development and addressing the underlying systemic issues.

Therefore, the continued exploration of alternatives to juvenile detention is imperative. These alternatives are fundamental, considering that juveniles on probation, participating in programming, or receiving treatment, exhibit lower chances of re-offending than those detained.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at