Four days after New York’s new Raise the Age law began to be implemented in October, I was fortunate to be invited to observe the Youthpart in Brooklyn. The Youthpart is a hybrid court that was created to address 16- and 17-year-olds charged with felonies.
This year has been one of the most transformative years in history for New York’s juvenile justice system. Just a month after one of New York’s most groundbreaking juvenile justice reforms, Raise the Age, became a reality, New York City took a wrecking ball to the decades-old Spofford Juvenile Detention Centers in the Bronx.
When Ron started working at Horizon Detention Center in early October, he expected the Bronx facility to be full of “ra-ra, rowdy” teens. To his surprise, the residents were calm, even respectful, and the bright, clean halls reminded him of a dormitory.
On Oct. 1, the first phase of a New York state law known as “Raise the Age” took effect, meaning 16-year-olds can no longer be arrested or tried as adults. A year from now, the law will extend to 17-year-olds as well.
As the first step in New York’s raise the age law, all 16- and 17-year-olds were moved off New York City’s notorious Rikers Island and into more appropriate juvenile facilities by the Monday deadline, according to an announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
At Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center in Brooklyn, barbed wire and tall unclimbable fences enclose the housing building, basketball courts and outdoor areas, like in every jail or prison. Detention hardware and security cameras are all over the place, like in every jail or prison.
A new report from a coalition of juvenile justice organizations is intended to help communities better serve people 18 to 24 who are involved in the juvenile justice system and in danger of becoming homeless.
ByRobert G. Schwartz, Diane Geraghty, Stephen Phillippi and Bobbe Bridge |
The work done during the Models for Change Initiative (funded by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) has embedded structural and practice improvements that continue to influence policy change in juvenile justice toward a more developmentally oriented and equitably responsive system.
Within the scope of juvenile justice literature, studies highlight the need for both immediate and long-term reform measures. This is clearly pertinent given the existence of racial disparity in terms of treatment and confinement among youth in the United States. In fact, federal and state-level funding has been provided to address this dilemma during the past 10 to 15 years.
James Bell, founder and president of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, told a gathering of juvenile justice reformers that it was time to begin “an uncomfortable” conversation about racial disparities in the youth justice system.