New York City Youth to be Shifted out of State-Run Facilities

Posted March 17, 2012
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog newyorkcityyouthtobeshiftedoutofstatefacilities 2012

Richard Ross for Juvenile in Justice

For decades, New York State’s juve­nile cor­rec­tions sys­tem has rou­tine­ly shipped court-involved New York City youth hun­dreds of miles from their homes to cor­rec­tion­al cen­ters and res­i­den­tial treat­ment facil­i­ties locat­ed upstate. This prac­tice has come under increas­ing fire in recent years, fol­low­ing rev­e­la­tions of vio­lence and abuse in many state facil­i­ties, as well as alarm­ing recidi­vism rates and spi­ral­ing costs.

On March 27, Gov­er­nor Andrew Cuo­mo, Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Dean Ske­los, and Assem­bly Speak­er Shel­don Sil­ver announced an agree­ment on the 20122013 New York State bud­get that includ­ed the Governor’s Close to Home” pro­pos­al. That pro­pos­al will realign the sys­tem and allow city youth to remain near their homes and fam­i­lies, a shift cham­pi­oned by May­or Michael Bloomberg.

Under Close to Home, New York City youth who are sent to non-secure or lim­it­ed-secure care will now be placed in city-based res­i­den­tial and com­mu­ni­ty-based pro­grams. Young peo­ple sent to secure care will remain in state facil­i­ties. New York City will receive $35.2 mil­lion in state block-grant funds to pro­vide new ser­vices for the first full year. The grant would rise to $41.4 mil­lion the fol­low­ing year. How­ev­er, the state’s costs would be off­set by sav­ings result­ing from a small­er pop­u­la­tion in state custody.

Over­all, the Cuo­mo admin­is­tra­tion esti­mates that the asso­ci­at­ed sav­ings will be $4.5 mil­lion in 20122013 and $27 mil­lion in 20132014.

The cur­rent sys­tem is not help­ing kids, it isn’t help­ing tax­pay­ers and it isn’t help­ing pub­lic safe­ty,” May­or Bloomberg said back in Decem­ber 2010, after vis­it­ing the Fin­ger Lakes Res­i­den­tial Cen­ter with Rev­erend Al Sharp­ton. The bot­tom line is, I think we all agree we need to stop send­ing kids miles away from their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. And, instead, autho­rize the city to ful­ly oper­ate its own juve­nile sys­tem here in the five boroughs.”

The pop­u­la­tion of youth in state facil­i­ties, which peaked at 2,313 in 2001, has been plum­met­ing for years.

As of Decem­ber 2007, state-run youth cor­rec­tions and treat­ment facil­i­ties housed 1,099 youth, includ­ing 604 New York City res­i­dents. By Decem­ber 2010, the state facil­i­ties housed only 594 youth, of whom just 311 hailed from New York City. As a result, the state has closed 14 juve­nile facil­i­ties since 2008.

The rapid decline in state cus­tody was trig­gered by sev­er­al factors:

Shock­ing Abus­es. In August 2009, a fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion revealed ram­pant vio­lence and abuse at four state-run facil­i­ties, includ­ing exces­sive use of force by facil­i­ty staff, and exces­sive reliance on phys­i­cal restraints, often result­ing in seri­ous injury to youth.

High Recidi­vism.2010 study by the New York State Juve­nile Jus­tice Advi­so­ry Group found that

89 per­cent of boys and 81 per­cent of girls released from state facil­i­ties are rear­rest­ed by the time they turn 28; and two years after release 63 per­cent of youth will have been rear­rest­ed, 43 per­cent of those for felonies.

Astro­nom­i­cal Costs. Those facil­i­ties cost an aver­age of $260,000 a year per child to oper­ate while run­ning at 66 per­cent capac­i­ty, accord­ing to the report. New York City paid 50 per­cent of the $260,000 year­ly costs to house its kids in state facil­i­ties as far away as the Adiron­dacks and Fin­ger Lakes, said Vin­cent Schi­ral­di, the city’s com­mis­sion­er of probation.

None of the facil­i­ties has cer­ti­fied edu­ca­tion pro­grams, pre­vent­ing juve­niles from trans­fer­ring cred­its when they returned to their home schools. The long dis­tances left kids cut off from their fam­i­lies, Schi­ral­di said, espe­cial­ly the many fam­i­lies that don’t have a car.

Under Close to Home, New York City will sub­mit a realign­ment plan to the state that includes expand­ed ser­vices rang­ing from com­mu­ni­ty-based pro­grams to lim­it­ed-secure res­i­den­tial care.

Work on a blue­print for realign­ment began in 2011 when the may­or cre­at­ed a Dis­po­si­tion­al Reform Steer­ing Com­mit­tee to plan a con­tin­u­um of care for return­ing juveniles.

The committee’s 23 mem­bers includ­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives from pro­ba­tion and the city’s Admin­is­tra­tion for Children’s Ser­vices, in addi­tion to pros­e­cu­tors, judges, defense coun­sel, and advocates.

Three con­sul­tants from the Casey Foun­da­tion and one from the John Jay Col­lege of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice served as con­sul­tants to the committee.

The expan­sion plan will include:

  • Grad­u­at­ed lev­els of pro­ba­tion super­vi­sion and services;
  • An expand­ed con­tin­u­um of local pro­grams matched to the youth’s risk-lev­el and needs, includ­ing day treat­ment, men­tor­ing, in-home fam­i­ly ser­vices, and a wrap-around work­force-devel­op­ment program;
  • A state-of-the-art struc­tured deci­sion-mak­ing mod­el that will use risk assess­ment and offense sever­i­ty to guide the Depart­ment of Probation’s dis­po­si­tion­al rec­om­men­da­tion to the courts;
  • A nego­ti­at­ed acqui­si­tion” process through which the city will iden­ti­fy appro­pri­ate providers of qual­i­ty non-secure and lim­it­ed-secure place­ment in the five bor­oughs with well-regard­ed, local non­prof­it providers; and
  • Close mon­i­tor­ing to eval­u­ate the per­for­mance of con­trac­tors, with both robust state over­sight and the Admin­is­tra­tion for Children’s Ser­vices’ Qual­i­ty Assur­ance System.

New York City has also launched a new $127 mil­lion Young Men’s Ini­tia­tive,” a cross-agency pro­gram designed to con­nect black and Lati­no males with edu­ca­tion­al, employ­ment, and men­tor­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. Juve­nile jus­tice realign­ment is part of the ini­tia­tive, and many of the pro­grams are serv­ing jus­tice-involved youth.

What we don’t want to do is have a one-to-one move­ment of kids from state beds to city beds,” Schi­ral­di said. Now we’ll have the free­dom to put lim­it­ed resources to the best use.”

If all goes accord­ing to sched­ule, city youth will return home in two stages. New York City will take over respon­si­bil­i­ty from the state for non-secure place­ments no soon­er than Sep­tem­ber 1, 2012, and for youth in lim­it­ed-secure place­ments no ear­li­er than April 1, 2013. About 92 New York City youth were in non-secure state facil­i­ties as of Jan­u­ary 13. Anoth­er 131 were in lim­it­ed-secure facilities.

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