Correctional Association of New York commends governor’s commitment to youth justice reform, successful reentry for adults

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From CA Press Release:


Caitlin Kundrat, Correctional Association


212-254-5700, ext 332

(New York, NY) January 8, 2014 – In response to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address today, the Correctional Association of New York released the following statement, attributable to Correctional Association Executive Director Soffiyah Elijah:

“We’re pleased that the governor’s priorities for the coming session include the creation of two new groups that would have the opportunity to make major strides towards criminal and youth justice reform in New York State.

We applaud the governor for his announcement of a Commission on Youth, Justice and Public Safety. The Commission will be charged with comprehensive youth justice reform, including the issue of raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York.  To the great benefit of New York’s children, families and communities, since taking office in 2011, Governor Cuomo has implemented a number of substantial reforms to our state’s youth justice system.  With this latest announcement, the governor is once again outlining a bold vision for and commitment to children who are involved in the state’s court systems.

In spite of New York’s many recent positive youth justice reforms, our state continues to carry the unflattering distinction of being one of only two in the nation that automatically prosecutes children under the age of 18 as adults in the criminal justice system—a policy that has been shown to harm both children and public safety.  New York also houses children in adult jails and prisons, where they are at grave risk of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and are often denied rehabilitative services. Governor Cuomo now has a unique opportunity to do more than simply help New York catch up with 48 other states: this session the governor can help New York rise to national prominence by enacting far-reaching reforms to achieve the interdependent goals of increased public safety and better youth outcomes, and we heartily endorse his important first steps to that end.

The governor should also be commended for his announcement of a  council on Community Reintegration and Reentry to reduce recidivism rates.

People with felony convictions face myriad barriers that undermine their ability to build healthy and productive lives for themselves and their families after prison.  These barriers include challenges in securing living-wage employment, accessing health insurance and healthcare, obtaining affordable housing, regaining custody of children and reunifying with families, and reestablishing support networks.  With previous initiatives like Work for Success, which aims to help formerly incarcerated people find employment, the Governor has taken important steps to combat the discrimination and stigma people with felony convictions face.  The council has the opportunity to build on these efforts and make progress in dismantling all roadblocks standing in the way of successful reentry.

In addition to eliminating barriers in the community, reentry success is inextricably linked to the availability of effective programming and reentry support services in prison. Planning for a strong return to the community should begin the moment a person steps foot into a prison to serve their sentence. The Correctional Association has a legislative mandate to monitor conditions inside of New York’s prisons and in exercising that authority, we have repeatedly found serious shortcomings and great opportunities for improvement in these areas.

We are hopeful that the council will understand the need to create a more effective bridge between prison and the community and work to enhance in-prison programs and reentry services.  We are encouraged that with the creation of a council on Community Reintegration and Reentry, the governor has positioned our state to take a more holistic and robust view of the reentry process and advance meaningful reforms that could give those returning home a better opportunity to succeed.”

The Correctional Association of New York is an independent, non-profit organization with legislative authority to inspect prisons and to report its findings and recommendations to the public.  Utilizing a strategic model of research, policy analysis, prison-monitoring, coalition-building, leadership development and advocacy, the CA strives to make the administration of justice in New York State more fair, efficient and humane.