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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform | NY

New York: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 |  2010 | 2009 



  • Conditions of Confinement — Local Correctional Facilities Encouraged to Seek Parental Consent for Medical Treatment for Youth: New York passed an amendment to encourage local correctional facilities to inquire whether parents or guardians of youth under the age of eighteen committed to their facility will grant their child the capacity to consent to routine medical, dental, and mental health services and treatment. Previously, correctional facilities were authorized to administer such services to such youth without parental consent and they are still authorized to do so where no medical consent is obtained prior to commitment. However, the youth’s parent or guardian may bring legal proceedings objecting to such treatment if the youth is not yet eighteen years old. A. 5008/Act No. 437 , signed into law and effective October 23, 2013.

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  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons  — New York Approves Close to Home Initiative: New York State lawmakers approved a package of major juvenile justice reforms called the “Juvenile Justice Services Close to Home” initiative for inclusion in Governor Cuomo’s 2012 budget. Close to Home aims to place most New York City youth who are adjudicated delinquent in residential facilities near their home communities, reserving secure state confinement facilities for youth who have committed the most serious offenses. Under the law, New York City is to develop a comprehensive system that ensures the least restrictive and most appropriate level of care for all youth. The initiative’s stated goals are to: create a continuum of diversion, supervision, treatment, and confinement; minimize the dislocation of youth from their families and community supports; promote family and community involvement; ensure system accountability; be data-driven and based on “evidence-informed” practices; and provide effective reintegration services, especially with regard to education and treatment services. A. 9057/Act No. 57, signed into law March 30, 2012; effective September 1, 2012.

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  • Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — State Funds Detention Alternatives and Requires Use of Pre-Trial Risk Assessment Instrument: Through the 2011-12 adopted state budget, New York lawmakers agreed to allow local jurisdictions the option to use state detention funds for detention alternatives, such as community-based supervision and treatment programs. In the past, the state has not reimbursed for such programs, although it reimbursed counties for detention use; now the state will reimburse the community-based supervision programs at a higher rate than for detention. These funds will be available in addition to approximately $8.3 million specifically set aside for counties for community-based programs. The adopted budget invests an additional $20 million in staffing enhancements in state facilities in order to improve the delivery of health, mental health, substance abuse treatment, and educational services for incarcerated youth. The budget also requires all local jurisdictions to begin using a pre-trial detention risk assessment instrument to make better decisions about whom to detain pre-trial, and to report to the state on who is being detained.
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth in the System — New York City Issues New Policies to Protect LGBTQ Youth: New York City’s Administration of Children, which has responsibility for providing both juvenile detention and foster care services, issued two new policies in July 2011 to promote a safe and respectful environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their families. The policies—which draw from guidelines issued by New York’s Office of Children and Family Services in 2008—cover LGBTQ identities and language, disclosure, confidentiality, cultural competency training, medical/mental health, bedroom/bathroom arrangements, personal grooming, search issues, and transition/reentry planning.
  • Facility Closures and Downsizing — State Dramatically Downsizes Number of Incarcerated Youth: The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) has downsized or closed a total of 31 facilities since 2007, with four facilities closed and four facilities downsized in August 2011 alone. These closures occurred in tandem with a federal Department of Justice investigation, which found that staff in a number of New York State facilities routinely used excessive physical force against residents and that the facilities failed to provide constitutionally adequate mental health care. Additionally, advocates filed a class-action lawsuit alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement in state-operated facilities. Over the past ten years, the number of youth referred for facility placement with OCFS declined from 2,313 in 2000-2001 to a population of 627 youth in January 2011, a 73 percent decrease. State officials report that facility closures and downsizing have saved New York State $58 million.
  • Facility Closures and Downsizing — New York City Closes Notorious Detention Center: New York City closed the Spofford/Bridges Secure Detention Center in the Bronx in March 2011. The center was notorious for poor conditions of confinement and brutal treatment of youth. The center at one point housed 200 youth; when the center was closed, only a handful of youth remained. The city estimates it will save $14 million annually from the closure. Overall detention admissions for New York City declined 17 percent between 2006 and 2010; detention admissions for the rest of the state declined 37 percent over the same time period. New York City now uses a range of alternatives to detention to provide community-based supervision and educational services to youth who have been diverted from detention..

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  • Conditions of Confinement — Manhattan Judge Finds Shackling of Juveniles Illegal: A ruling from the New York State Supreme Court repealed the state’s Office of Children and Family Services’ shackling policy that had been in place since 1996. According to the decision, the current policy requiring shackling of any child in custody being transported between state facilities or from a facility to anywhere else violates state law, which allows shackling of only dangerous youth as a last resort, and only for up to half an hour. John F. v. Gladys Carrion, January 25, 2010.
  • Conditions of Confinement — New York City Council Passes Incident Reporting Law: The New York City Council mandated that the New York City Division of Youth and Family Justice (DYFJ) collect and make public data on injuries to youth in non-secure and secure detention, demographic data of youth in detention, and child abuse reports for youth in detention. The reports provide invaluable new data on the care and treatment of youth in detention. DYFJ must submit the injury reports quarterly; the demographic and child abuse reports must be submitted annually. The Administration for Children’s Services posts the data on the statistics section of its website. Introductions 153-A and 37-A, enacted May 18, 2010.
  • Conditions of Confinement — Office of Children and Family Services and U.S. Department of Justice Reach Settlement on Facility Conditions: A settlement agreement between the New York Office of Children and Family Services and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) applies to conditions at four New York facilities: Finger Lakes Residential Center (formerly known as the Louis Gossett, Jr. Residential Center), Lansing Residential Center, Tryon Residential Center, and Tryon Girls Center (the Tryon Residential Center and Tryon Girls Center have closed since the settlement). DOJ initiated a CRIPA (Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act) investigation of the facilities in 2008, which found use of excessive force and inappropriate restraints, and failure to provide adequate mental health care and treatment. The settlement agreement includes provisions on use of restraints, use of force, reporting and investigation of incidents, use of psychotropic medications, treatment planning, substance abuse treatment, transition planning, quality assurance, and monitoring. United States v. New York, July 14, 2010.

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  • Conditions of Confinement — New York City Requires Department of Corrections to Collect Data on Adolescents in City Jails: In response to the fatal beating of a youth on Rikers Island, the New York City Council passed a bill that requires the Department of Corrections to collect data on adolescents in city jails. Rikers Island houses nearly 900 youth between 16 and 18 years old. Several allegations of criminal acts against adolescent inmates were exposed following the fatal beating of Christopher Robinson in 2008. The security-related data being gathered includes, among other indicators, the number of stabbings/slashings and fights resulting in serious injury, number of attempted suicides, and incidents of sexual assault. Int. 0937-2009/Law 2009/029, signed into law May 11, 2009; effective July 1, 2009.

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Photo: houy.in, under Creative Commons License.