Report: New York’s Close to Home Initiative Offers a New Model for Juvenile Justice

Posted March 23, 2018, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Messages of love, support and encouragement from family members of youth in a Close to Home placement.

Messages of love, support and encouragement from family members of youth in a Close to Home placement. Photo Credit: Leake and Watts Services, Inc.

In just five years, New York’s land­mark Close to Home juve­nile jus­tice reform ini­tia­tive has rad­i­cal­ly trans­formed the expe­ri­ence of New York City’s youth — reforms that have led to sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits for young peo­ple, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, accord­ing to a new report from the Cen­ter for Children’s Law and Pol­i­cy. The report, which was fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, pro­vides guid­ance for the grow­ing num­ber of states look­ing to replace youth pris­ons with more effec­tive invest­ments in com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices and supports.

Imple­men­ta­tion of New York’s Close to Home Ini­tia­tive: A New Mod­el for Youth Jus­tice describes how the ini­tia­tive achieved its two fun­da­men­tal objec­tives: remov­ing New York City youth from large, dan­ger­ous, expen­sive and inef­fec­tive facil­i­ties far from their homes; and bring­ing the great major­i­ty of New York City youth home to the city or the imme­di­ate area. The ulti­mate goal: increas­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for par­ents, care­givers and oth­er rel­a­tives to stay con­nect­ed to their chil­dren and play a vital short- and long-term role in their treat­ment and rehabilitation.

Read about the momen­tum build­ing in states to end the youth prison model

Before the pas­sage of Close to Home in 2012, many young peo­ple from New York City end­ed up in the state’s youth pris­ons, which were often hun­dreds of miles away from their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ty sup­ports. The state’s youth pris­ons also had doc­u­ment­ed his­to­ries of dan­ger­ous and abu­sive prac­tices, cost over $200,000 per youth per year to oper­ate and left youth with recidi­vism rates of more than 80% after their release.

In accor­dance with Close to Home, the New York City Admin­is­tra­tion for Children’s Ser­vices (ACS) began cre­at­ing a com­pre­hen­sive ser­vice con­tin­u­um with­in the city that would meet the needs of youth and fam­i­lies, pro­mote com­mu­ni­ty safe­ty and con­nect youth to com­mu­ni­ty sup­ports that would help them avoid future con­tact with the jus­tice system.

Pub­lic safe­ty is a core prin­ci­ple of Close to Home. ACS released 836 young peo­ple from place­ment to after­care from 2014 to 2016. Dur­ing that same time peri­od, only 64 youths had their after­care revoked for vio­la­tions of the terms of their release, such as a new arrest. Addi­tion­al efforts to mea­sure recidi­vism through rear­rest, read­ju­di­ca­tion or involve­ment with the adult crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem are under­way, accord­ing to the report.

The rapid timetable for imple­men­ta­tion of the ini­tia­tive and the sheer scope of the task at hand cre­at­ed many chal­lenges. Nev­er­the­less, the city agency and its part­ners are see­ing many pos­i­tive results of the reforms, including:

  • Sig­nif­i­cant edu­ca­tion­al progress and achieve­ments of youth in the Close to Home pro­gram. For instance, youth earned an aver­age of 9.3 cred­its and passed 91% of their class­es, con­tin­u­ing year-over-year improve­ments in both areas dur­ing the 2016 – 17 school year.
  • Engage­ment of youth and fam­i­ly mem­bers with nation­al­ly rec­og­nized and evi­dence-based treat­ment and services.
  • Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of ser­vice providers equipped to meet the needs of youth with spe­cial chal­lenges (such as youth with prob­lem­at­ic sex­u­al behav­iors, youth with severe emo­tion­al dis­tur­bances), as opposed to rely­ing on a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • High rates of suc­cess­ful reuni­fi­ca­tion of youth with fam­i­ly mem­bers fol­low­ing time in place­ment. In 2016, 79% of youth in Close to Home place­ments suc­cess­ful­ly tran­si­tioned home to a par­ent or fam­i­ly member.
  • Cre­ation of addi­tion­al avenues to con­nect youth to proso­cial, skill-build­ing and employ­ment opportunities.

Vir­tu­al­ly every state has reduced its use of con­fine­ment since the turn of the cen­tu­ry, but Close to Home aspired to change the very nature of what place­ment looked like, all while invest­ing in alter­na­tives that would dri­ve the pop­u­la­tion down fur­ther,” says Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group. By aim­ing high­er, Close to Home has been at the fore­front of what we should all hope is a new wave of youth jus­tice transformation.”

Read the full report

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