Causal relationships are difficult to identify in complex and multi-part initiatives, but New York City’s falling rate of gun violence suggests that recent community initiatives may have helped to sustain previous gains.
The Tessa Majors case is a test for New York’s recently-enacted Raise The Age law, which barred the state from automatically prosecuting 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Jeffrey Butts, who leads John Jay College’s Research and Evaluation Center, told Floyd that this is the exact kind of case that the law’s critics could use as leverage to reverse it.
Over the last five years the number of police stops and arrests involving Capital Region youths has fallen more than 45 percent, according to state data. It’s a stunning drop — but one without a clear single reason, say law enforcement and juvenile justice system professionals. Several factors are likely in play, including an overall drop in crime in the country, changes in the drug trade, increased use of alternatives to incarceration and changes in youth culture, said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, tracking trends, and something definitely feels different than it did 20 years ago,” Butts said.
It’s not possible to pinpoint exactly why Brooklyn has more people incarcerated with these long sentences using borough-by-borough numbers alone, said Jeffrey Butts, director of John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Research and Evaluation Center. In order to determine why Brooklynites are serving so many life and virtual life sentences, Butts said, it would be necessary to control for specific crimes to then see if there is a pattern in sentencing.
But while the numbers show New York City is shifting gears on criminal justice reform, much harder is to establish, the experts said, is whether new policies are causing the drop in crime or whether they are a consequence of it…. Crime numbers have been decreasing for a long time nationwide, and even worldwide, said Jeffrey Butts, a professor who leads the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He has researched the juvenile justice system since the late 1980s.
Nonetheless, outside experts say the program has started to show results. Residents “stay connected with their families and they are more likely to remain in local schools,” wrote Prof. Jeffrey Butts, from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Research and Evaluation Center, in a 44-page report on Close to Home in 2015.
Jeffrey Butts, a justice scholar at John Jay College who has worked with the city on analyzing its juvenile capacity needs, notes that a city-administered system could create new financial incentives to keep kids out of lockups altogether, since incarceration is many times more expensive than alternative programs that provide community-based supervision alongside services like family counseling and job training. “If you have $100 to spend and you can either use that money to put one kid in a facility or work with three or four kids in the community, you’ll find that the impulse to put kids in secure facilities goes way down,” says Butts.