A Need for Correction: Reforming New York’s Juvenile Justice System

Child Welfare Watch Vol. 18, Fall 2009 (PDF)

Half the children housed in New York State’s juvenile correctional facilities suffer from mental illness, yet there is not one psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse on the staff of the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), which runs the facilities.

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That’s one of the findings of a new report by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School entitled A Need for Correction: Reforming New York’s Juvenile Justice System., Coming in the wake of a federal Department of Justice investigation that found widespread use of excessive force by staff at four OCFS facilities upstate, this new report identifies shortcomings in mental health services and explores possible solutions, including the expansion of alternatives to incarceration for juvenile delinquents.

The report was released today, in conjunction with a forum from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., at Theresa Lang Community & Student Center, 55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor. The forum included a panel discussion on the juvenile justice system with two legal experts, a child psychologist, a state legislator and a member of one of the unions representing OCFS employees.

The new report acknowledges that OCFS has made improvements in the past two years, including tripling the number of social workers and psychologists who work in the juvenile correctional facilities. But the report found many shortcomings in psychiatric care and describes how a combustible mix, of mentally ill youth and fatigued line-staff (some of whom routinely work 16-hour days) can lead to violent confrontations.

The report examines alternative-to-incarceration programs that offer supervision and guidance to juvenile delinquents at home, in their own communities. Family Court judges have relied increasingly on these programs in the past decade, leading to a dramatic decrease in the number of youth admitted to juvenile justice facilities, from 1,938 in 2000 to 813 in 2008.

The report contains policy recommendations drafted by the Child Welfare Watch advisory board aimed at helping policymakers address issues of mental illness and juvenile justice.

Child Welfare Watch is published jointly by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School and the Center for an Urban Future. This edition is made possible thanks to generous grants from the Child Welfare Fund, the Ira W. DeCamp Foundation, the Viola W. Bernard Foundation and the Sirus Fund.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Oversight for New Juvenile Justice Homes | Child Welfare Watch - January 16, 2013

    [...] This new board marks the latest step in the Bloomberg administration’s multi-million dollar Close to Home initiative, which transferred responsibility for all but the most severe of the city’s young lawbreakers from the state to the city. As part of the reform effort, young people who committed crimes in New York City and were confined upstate have moved into newly created group homes in the five boroughs. The homes were designed to be more homelike and therapeutic than the state-run facilities they replaced, and which a federal Department of Justice investigation denounced as dangerous and counterproductive… [...]

  2. A Transformative Moment? New York’s New Vision for Juvenile Justice | Child Welfare Watch - April 26, 2012

    [...] Child Welfare Watch is co-published by the Center for New York City Affairs and Center for an Urban Future. The most recent issue, “A Need for Correction: Reforming New York’s Juvenile Justice System,” is available here. [...]

  3. A Primer on Bloomberg‚Äôs ‘Close to Home’ Plan for Juvenile Justice | Child Welfare Watch - April 23, 2012

    [...] Ever since Mayor Bloomberg announced that he wanted to stop sending hundreds of teen lawbreakers to upstate juvenile lockups each year, keeping them in city-controlled programs instead, people who work in and around the system have been asking for details: What will the city system look like? Who will operate it? And how will it be better than the state-run system it will replace, with its decades of scandal and notoriously high rates of recidivism? [...]

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