Cuyahoga County

Veteran Prosecutor to Lead Juvenile Justice Initiative

12/21/2013

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty has tapped Duane J. Deskins, a veteran federal prosecutor, to lead a broad initiative aimed at improving the quality of juvenile justice in Cuyahoga County and reducing juvenile crime. Deskins, an Assistant United States Attorney for more than three decades in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Cleveland, is joining the Prosecutor’s Office in a newly created position: Chief Prosecuting Attorney Juvenile Division and Director of Juvenile Crime Prevention. He will begin his new duties on December 23.

“It is exciting to welcome a career prosecutor of Duane Deskins’ ability and experience to our team,’’ said Prosecutor McGinty. “He is in a great position to use all the knowledge he gained over the years to revolutionize the way we approach juvenile justice and juvenile crime. He can activate everybody.”

Deskins grew up in Cleveland's Glenville and Shaker Square neighborhoods, the only child of Beatrice Deskins, a single, low-income mother who made religion, education and community involvement cornerstones of her son's life. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School and went on to earn both his undergraduate and law degrees from Boston College.

“I have been blessed with freedom of opportunities, choices and pursuits,” Deskins said. “All of us have a responsibility to make sure we don’t just drive away from those in need.” As a federal prosecutor, Deskins directed more than 1,000 criminal investigations and prosecuted hundreds of cases against lawbreakers from both the streets and the boardroom. In the Justice Department's Cleveland office, he spearheaded its Project Safe Neighborhoods and other broad collaborations aimed at reducing violence, especially among young people. “There are lots of different players who touch this issue,’’ Deskins said. “None of us can be successful unless we work together.”

Kurt Karakul, president and executive director of the Third Federal Foundation, praised the effort Deskins led to purchase Nook e-readers preloaded with textbooks for students at two public schools in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. The project required Deskins to secure commitments and cooperation from the Karakul’s foundation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Case Western Reserve University, Barnes & Noble and the textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin. “He was really dogged about getting people together to get that Nook project completed,’’ said Karakul. “He really gets the importance of education and prevention to reduce violence and crime. I wish more people were like him. He is going to be a great addition to the Prosecutor’s Office.”

Prosecutor McGinty wants Deskins to build on his past work, engaging all elements of the juvenile court system as well as business and community leaders, educators and neighborhood residents in broad efforts to reduce violence among young people. “We want Cuyahoga County to become a leader in preventing juvenile violence and juvenile crime,” said Prosecutor McGinty “Throughout the entire justice system, we want to prevent as much as we prosecute. We want fewer people going into the system and fewer people staying in the system. And we want more partners contributing to those efforts.”

Deskins will be no stranger to Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court when he begins work there. For the past 12 years, he has been a volunteer magistrate at the court, working once a month with young first-offenders and their families. He says he is eager to begin fine-tuning the Juvenile Justice Division of the Prosecutor’s Office, working closely with the Juvenile Court and building bridges to the community to help at-risk youngsters obtain the opportunities as he did to enjoy a rewarding and productive career. Like Prosecutor McGinty, he wants nothing less than to put Cleveland and Cuyahoga County at the center of the national conversation about reducing youth violence.

“We have to show people something that is different. We have to change their level of expectations,” Deskins said. “I’m in this to win.”

Contact: Joseph Frolik, Director of Communications and Public Policy. Phone: (216) 443-7488 or Cell: (216) 640-6186