New York Nonprofit Media

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CLOSE TO HOME

A JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM TRIES TO REBOUND FROM EARLY TROUBLES

By GABE PONCE DE LEÓN
… A collaborative effort between the city and state, Close to Home is part of a larger “realignment” of New York’s juvenile justice system—a recent movement that favors community-based alternatives to placements in rural correctional facilities, and models that emphasize rehabilitative services over punitive measures. The program allows youth to continue their education and access treatment without being cut off from their families. With rates of juvenile crime declining in New York and nationwide, reformers have argued that community-based alternatives will save taxpayer money while reducing recidivism.

… In assessing the early results of Close to Home, its proponents argue that any negative outcomes should be weighed against the violence and abuse youth can be subjected to in correctional facilities, as well as the lack of educational and other developmental opportunities that can have a devastating toll when they return home, often leaving their life prospects severely diminished.

“There’s never a good reason to send kids away,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It could be about convenience, fear, politics or a way of adding jobs to outlying areas where there aren’t enough jobs. But it’s never about public safety.”

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