Governor Cuomo announces “Juvenile Justice Services Close to Home Initiative”; Correctional Association looks forward to public release of NYC’s plan for youth justice system

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For Immediate Release

Soffiyah Elijah
Executive Director
Correctional Association of NY
212-254-5700, ext. 305

NEW YORK – The Correctional Association of New York (“the CA”) praises Governor Andrew Cuomo for taking a significant step towards restructuring our state’s youth justice system with the introduction of his “Juvenile Justice Services Close to Home Initiative” in the 2012-2013 Executive Budget released last Tuesday.  If the Governor’s proposal is approved by the state legislature, jurisdiction of New York City’s children who are currently confined in the state’s non-secure and limited-secure placement facilities may be transferred to the city. An official plan for a city-based youth justice system has not yet been released to the public.

“The Governor’s initiative provides a unique opportunity for the creation of a new youth justice system in New York City, one that potentially could bring about better life outcomes for children and strengthen communities,” said Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the CA.

“The CA has, for many years, advocated for keeping children in custody closer to their homes and communities. However, given the many challenges youth justice systems face both in keeping children safe and secure and in meeting the complex treatment and service needs of young people in custody, the details of the city’s plan are paramount,” said Ms. Elijah. “We very much look forward to receiving and being able to meaningfully respond to the city’s proposed plan.”

The proposed legislation requires New York City to hold at least one community hearing and accept written comments from the public on their proposed plan. In addition, the city would be required to explain its reasons for disregarding any significant commentary that may be put forth by the public.

“We are pleased that Governor Cuomo included provisions in his initiative that give communities an opportunity to comment on the city’s plan. On-going transparency and true public accountability are critical components of any well-functioning system, and we are looking to both the city and state to include clear mechanisms for integrating this public feedback and enable the continued participation of families and communities once the plan is implemented,” said Ms. Elijah.

“Family and community engagement is increasingly being recognized as critical to positive youth justice outcomes, and the people who are most impacted by the system and their allies in the advocacy community need to be involved in a substantial way in the design, review, and on-going operation of the city’s new plan,” said Gabrielle Prisco, the director of the CA’s Juvenile Justice Project.

“The voices and experiences of system-involved children and their families and communities are a rich source of data for reform efforts. These individuals and communities often have powerful insight into how young people get off-track, what could help them get back on, and the ways in which the system could improve both youth and community safety outcomes,” said Ms. Prisco.

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 organization that has served as an independent outside monitor of New York’s adult prison system for nearly two centuries, the Correctional Association is well aware of the myriad 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.

We welcome the opportunity to work together with communities and the city to build a system that ensures robust protections for children and offers a wide range of community-based services, programs and treatment options for the young people in its care.

The Correctional Association of New York is an independent, non-profit organization founded by concerned citizens in 1844 and granted unique authority by the New York State Legislature to inspect prisons and to report its findings and recommendations to the legislature, the public and the press.  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.

Together, the CA’s three projects—the Juvenile Justice Project, the Prison Visiting Project, and Women in Prison Project—work to stop the ineffective use of incarceration to address social problems; advocate for humane prison conditions; empower people directly affected by incarceration to become leaders; and promote transparency and accountability in the criminal and youth justice systems.