Not since the opening of the first juvenile reform school in 1886 has our nation’s approach to confining delinquent youth experienced such fundamental and widespread change. From California to New York, states are reducing juvenile placements, shuttering facilities and shifting money and kids to county control. If done thoughtfully, it’s a trend that holds much promise. This national realignment movement took a huge step forward on Sept. 1, when New York state’s “Close to Home” law went into effect.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his support of a change to state law that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. Gov. Cuomo made his announcement at a news conference last week at the state capitol in Albany . Also supporting the legislative change was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who said she has plans to pass a resolution denouncing “unlawful” marijuana arrests. Currently, the state’s legislative session is scheduled to conclude on June 21. Last year, New York City police made more than 50,000 arrests for low-level marijuana possession, ultimately accounting for one out of every seven arrests in the nation’s largest city in 2011.
This story was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity
California, often a trendsetter, could make history if it approves Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to close all state-run youth prisons and eliminate its state Division of Juvenile Justice. Much depends, though, on whether the state’s politically influential prison guards, probation officers and district attorneys can be convinced — or forced by legislators — to agree to Brown’s proposal. That won’t be an easy sell, due to both public-safety arguments and sure-to-surface haggling over just who pays to house juvenile offenders. Vowing to restructure government more efficiently, Brown, a Democrat, wants to close the last three of 11 youth prisons that have long been attacked by critics as “expensive failures.” If the state phases out the last three of its aging detention centers, all future young offenders would be held, schooled and treated by California’s 58 counties. This is the second time since taking office last year that Brown has proposed closing the state juvenile division, which is part of its corrections system.