Albany Times Union

Juvenile justice changes ‘successful,’ John Jay College study shows

New York state juvenile justice program that keeps troubled city youth “close to home” works
by Dartunorro Clark
March 13, 2015

A John Jay College of Criminal Justice report, to be released Monday, shows positive outcomes from a juvenile justice program aimed at keeping New York City youths near their families rather than in upstate detention facilities.

The “Close to Home Initiative,” enacted in 2012, reduced the number of juveniles sent to nonsecure upstate detention facilities, which mainly house juveniles who committed misdemeanors, the report said. Admissions from New York City youths, generally under the age of 16, declined about 30 percent over a three­year period after Close to Home compared to 17 percent over a three­year period before, according to the report. Juvenile arrests were also down. In the city, arrests declined 39 percent after the change compared to 17 percent earlier.

Jeffrey Butts, a report author, criticized removing a young person from his neighborhood “in hopes that you can eliminate some of the negative influences when at the same time destroying the positive influences.”

He said nothing is added by keeping the youths too far away from home.

Butts, the director of John Jay’s Research and Evaluation Center, cautioned against reading too much into the numbers. Juvenile crime has been declining nationally for years and detention placements, among other factors, also declined. However, the report said, the program was successful in changing the culture of the juvenile justice system by enhancing the role of families and communities in the rehabilitation process.

Shifting resources to the city resulted in the closing of about a dozen state detention facilities, according to the Office of Children and Family Services.

“On balance, Close to Home seems to be a solid investment,” said the report, which dealt with non­secure sites such as Berkshire Farm in Canaan. The second phase of Close to Home will divert juveniles who have committed more serious crimes from limited­secure detention facilities to residential facilities in the five boroughs. The program does not deal with secure facilities such as Brookwood in Claverack.

Close to Home, part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s juvenile justice system agenda, is administered by the city’s Administration of Children’s Services, along with nonprofit providers, and is overseen by the state OCFS.
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