Testifying for transparency in the youth justice system

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Judy Yu and Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco of the CA’s Juvenile Justice Project testified on February 28 at a New York City Council hearing about a proposed bill requiring the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) to publicly report critical data on youth in the city’s youth justice facilities.

The bill would require ACS to report on:

  • the demographic data of children in the city’s youth justice facilities (including age, gender, race, zip code of residence, and information about offense severity);
  • the number of child neglect and child abuse allegations and findings regarding youth in these facilities;
  • information on physical and mechanical restraints of youth by staff inside facilities; and
  • injuries to youth in custody.

Under current City Council law, the city is only required to report this type of data for youth in its pre-trial detention facilities, and there are no similar reporting requirements for youth in placement facilities. As a result of the Close to Home Initiative, the city recently began contracting for the operation of placement facilities, and this bill would ensure that important data about children in these new facilities is publicly available.

The Correctional Association advocated for this bill to be written and supports its passage, because the bill will provide the public with critical information about the conditions of ACS youth justice facilities, and our testimony concentrated on ways to strengthen the bill’s impact.  Judy specifically testified on the need to further protect incarcerated lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth through collecting and publishing information about the sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression of youth in the system; and providing robust support and resources for ACS to gather such sensitive information accurately and effectively.

Research has shown that LGBTQ youth are disproportionately represented in the youth justice system; and suffer routine and systemic mistreatment in detention and placement as a result of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.[1]  ACS has recently made strong efforts to implement policies and practices to protect and more effectively serve LGBTQ youth in its care.  To build upon the important work ACS is already doing on these issues, Judy recommended that the New York City Council codify the following measures within the proposed legislation:

1)       Sexual orientation and gender identity should be included in all intake or admissions form and reported in the disaggregated data that will be posted on ACS’ website.

2)      Incident reports should include bias based incidents and published incident reporting data should be disaggregated by age, race, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

3)      An anonymous self-administered survey should be distributed to each youth on an annual basis to further collect information about the prevalence of LGBTQ youth in custody and their experiences while in detention and placement.  The survey results should be included in the public reports.

4)      Training and professional development should be mandated to ensure that the collection, management, and publication of this sensitive information benefits, and does not harm, youth and families.  Furthermore, ACS should be supported and resourced to develop their capacity to fully comply with such protocols.

Her testimony drew an enthusiastic response from a City Council Member Daniel Dromm from District 25 who shared his dedication to protecting the rights and safety of incarcerated LGBTQ youth.

The Correctional Association was proud to stand beside advocates, formerly incarcerated people, family members of incarcerated youth, and former teachers and guards from the youth justice system to passionately demand accountability from New York City about how our children are treated behind the notoriously thick closed walls of our youth justice system.

Download full written testimony

Gabrielle Horowitz-Prisco’s testimony

Judy Yu’s testimony


[1] Center for American Progress; The Unfair Criminalization of Gay and Transgender Youth: An Overview of the Experiences of LGBT Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, June, 2012