Youth Correctional Leaders Launch Campaign to Close Juvenile Prisons

Posted April 10, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Vincent Schiraldi, Mark Mertens, Gladys Carrión and Patrick McCarthy

From left: Vincent Schiraldi, Mark Mertens, Gladys Carrión and Patrick McCarthy

To address the needs of the 46,000 young peo­ple still incar­cer­at­ed on any giv­en night, near­ly 50 cur­rent and for­mer lead­ers of juve­nile jus­tice agen­cies across the coun­try have issued a joint call to close the nation’s remain­ing youth pris­ons and replace them with more effec­tive interventions.

The mem­bers of the new­ly formed Youth Cor­rec­tion­al Lead­ers for Jus­tice (YCLJ) — sup­port­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion and oth­ers — will offer tech­ni­cal assis­tance and lead­er­ship train­ing to pub­lic offi­cials and advo­cates work­ing to end the youth prison mod­el. They will share their exper­tise in shut­ting facil­i­ties in favor of a con­tin­u­um of com­mu­ni­ty-based pro­grams and, for the few youth who require secure con­fine­ment, design­ing small­er ther­a­peu­tic facil­i­ties that pri­or­i­tize age-appro­pri­ate reha­bil­i­ta­tion. YCLJ is a project of the Jus­tice Lab at Colum­bia University.

As cur­rent and for­mer lead­ers of youth jus­tice agen­cies around the coun­try, we believe that the time has come to close down youth pris­ons, once and for all,” said a joint state­ment released by the group. Our col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence on the inside’ has shown us that sep­a­rat­ing youth from their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties and empha­siz­ing pun­ish­ment and ret­ri­bu­tion harms young peo­ple and their communities.”

The group’s state­ment also addressed what to do with youth con­vict­ed of seri­ous offens­es who pose a risk of reof­fend­ing: Our call for clos­ing youth pris­ons does not mean that we believe no youth should ever be placed out of their homes. In those cas­es where pub­lic safe­ty absolute­ly requires that youth are in out-of-home care, we believe that this should only be for the min­i­mum time nec­es­sary to address this risk — in a warm, nur­tur­ing envi­ron­ment close to home, with well-trained staff, that treats all chil­dren the way we would want our own chil­dren to be treated.”

The YCLJ co-chairs are Vin­cent Schi­ral­di and Gladys Car­rión. Schi­ral­di, the YCLJ founder, was the for­mer com­mis­sion­er of the New York City Depart­ment of Pro­ba­tion and for­mer direc­tor of the Depart­ment of Youth Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Ser­vices in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Car­rión was for­mer com­mis­sion­er of both the New York City Admin­is­tra­tion for Children’s Ser­vices and New York State Office of Chil­dren and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices. The group’s lead­er­ship also includes Patrick McCarthy, the Foundation’s for­mer pres­i­dent and CEO and one-time divi­sion direc­tor of the Delaware Depart­ment of Ser­vices for Chil­dren, Youth and Their Fam­i­lies and Phyl­lis Beck­er, the for­mer direc­tor of the Mis­souri Divi­sion of Youth Ser­vices, among others.

Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group, said it was inspir­ing to see so many juve­nile jus­tice lead­ers come togeth­er around the goal of end­ing the use of the youth prison mod­el. YCLJ mem­bers know first­hand not only the oppor­tu­ni­ties and need for change but also the fis­cal, logis­ti­cal and polit­i­cal chal­lenges inher­ent in trans­form­ing pub­lic sys­tems and improv­ing out­comes for youth peo­ple,” he said.

Relat­ed resources on clos­ing youth prisons

Momen­tum Builds in States to End the Youth Prison Model

The Future of Youth Justice

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