Governor Cuomo’s proposal for a NYC-run youth justice system

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Released as part of the 2012-2013 Executive Budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Juvenile Justice Services Close to Home Initiative” represents a significant step towards restructuring New York’s broken youth justice system. If approved by the state legislature, the initiative could transfer jurisdiction of New York City’s children currently confined in the state’s non-secure and limited-secure placement facilities to the city.

The CA has, for many years, advocated for keeping children in custody closer to their homes and communities, and the governor’s proposal provides a unique opportunity for the creation of a new youth justice system—one that could potentially strengthen communities and bring about better life outcomes for children. However, an official plan for a NYC-run youth justice system has not yet been released to the public. Given the serious challenges youth justice systems face—both in keeping children safe and secure and in meeting the many treatment and service needs of young people in custody—the details of the forthcoming plan are paramount.

The city’s new plan must be approved by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), which operates the state’s youth justice system, before it can take effect. OCFS will have ongoing oversight and monitoring responsibilities for the city’s expanded youth justice system.

As an independent outside monitor of New York’s adult prison system for nearly two centuries, the CA is well aware of the many risks faced by people in custody. Comprehensive standards for the protection and treatment of children in custody should be required at both the city and state level, and the CA is looking to the city and state to provide strong internal and external monitoring mechanisms for any new youth justice system.

The CA is also looking for the inclusion of clear mechanisms for integrating public feedback and for enabling the continued participation of families and communities once the city’s plan is implemented. A provision in the governor’s proposed legislation requires New York City to hold at least one community hearing and accept written comments from the public on the city’s plan. In addition, the city must explain its reasons for disregarding any significant commentary put forth by the public.

The introduction of this legislation provides the CA and other advocates with the opportunity to work with communities and the city to build a new system that can ensure strong protections and offer a wide range of services, programs and treatment options for young people. The CA looks forward to receiving and responding to the city’s proposed plan and to keeping its supporters updated as this situation continues to unfold.

Additional information

  • Access the Governor’s proposed legislation for youth justice by clicking here and scrolling to part G.