“The report by Governor Paterson’s Task Force on Transforming Juvenile Justice highlights the failures of New York’s Juvenile Justice System. The youth prisons administered by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services house some of our neediest children, many of whom suffer from serious mental health problems, drug or alcohol problems or developmental disabilities. The report makes clear that these facilities are ineffective, do not provide youth with the services that they need, and in some cases youth even suffer at the hands of those charged with protecting them. Placement in youth prisons should be a last resort, and only used for those who commit serious or violent offenses that pose a threat to our communities; those who do not pose a public safety risk simply do not belong in these facilities and should not be placed in them just because there is nowhere else for them to go.

We must stop sending our children to facilities that are very far from their families and communities, that do not treat their serious underlying problems that at times allow them to be brutalized, and that are proven to be ineffective. I commend the work of the Governor and the Task Force for shedding light on the endemic problems of OCFS facilities and highly support its recommendations to move towards a therapeutic model for the State’s juvenile justice system. I also commend Commissioner Gladys Carrión for the leadership she has shown already in trying to change the system by closing some of these facilities and increasing services that are provided.

This week the Council’s Juvenile Justice and General Welfare Committees will hold a joint hearing on the Juvenile Justice Initiative, a City-based program administered by the Administration of Children’s Services, which is designed to prevent or significantly reduce a child’s time in placement in residential care, to reduce recidivism, and to improve outcomes for at-risk youth and for the City overall. JJI provides an alternative to institutional placement as well as intensive preventive aftercare services programs for youth post-placement. The innovative program is a wonderful example of the types of services New York City clearly needs more of, which focuses on rehabilitation and meeting the unique needs of these youth to ensure that they can be productive members of society.”

Statement by Juvenile Justice Committee Chair Sara Gonzalez:

“I commend Governor Paterson for his efforts to improve the State’s juvenile justice system and for creating the Task Force on Transforming Juvenile Justice. The comprehensive list of recommendations submitted by the distinguished panel is a most welcome recognition of the existing problems as well as the best solutions for charting a new direction for the state-wide system. Since elevating the sub Committee on Juvenile Justice to full Committee status within the New York City Council where we oversee the Department of Juvenile Justice (“DJJ”), I have partnered with advocates for children and DJJ Commissioner Neil Hernandez, also a Task Force member, to make some changes to the City’s detention system similar to ones that are called for in the report. The results thus far have been successful and they have vastly improved the lives of youth and their families in New York City by helping them utilize innovative and progressive programs and initiatives.”

Statement of General Welfare Committee Chair Bill de Blasio:

Governor Paterson’s Task Force makes clear that New York’s juvenile justice system is broken. Instead of leaving juvenile prisons rehabilitated, the overwhelming majority of youth go on to commit crimes again. We must explore and expand community-based alternatives such as ACS’ Juvenile Justice Initiative, which give young offenders an opportunity to create a new future for themselves.