There’s much to be said about the lively, exciting “Transforming Juvenile Justice in New York State” panel discussion that took place at NYU on Friday. If and when I pinch away some time to comment, I will. For now, though, I’ll turn it over to Errol Louis, a columnist at the New York Daily News, who wrote it up on Sunday:
New York State’s juvenile justice system is an expensive, dismal failure that does great harm to children and families without making our neighborhoods safer.
That indictment comes from Gladys Carrión, who as commissioner of the Office of Children & Family Services is in charge of 35 juvenile detention facilities that hold 2,000 or so kids under 16 who have committed what would be criminal acts if they were adults.
A staggering 80% of the youngsters who enter New York’s juvenile facilities end up returning or graduating to adult prisons within three years – a recidivism rate higher than the 60% in the adult criminal justice system.
Taxpayers are shelling out top dollar for that 80% failure rate: In some facilities, it works out to a mind-boggling $200,000 a year per juvenile inmate.
“I don’t say this proudly: We preside over a pipeline to prison,” Carrión recently said at a panel sponsored by New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
In a world where government officials normally go to great lengths to shift blame and hide problems from the public, Carrión’s candor is a breath of fresh air….
Carrión is calling for more teachers, counselors and health professionals. And she has a perfect way to pay for it: Shut down the state’s half-empty facilities.
“We continue to pay for empty beds at annual costs from $140,000 to $200,000 each. Nearly a dozen of the state’s youth facilities are operating under 40% of capacity,” Carrión’s report says.
Shutting down six of the least-used juvenile jails would save an estimated $14 million, says Carrión, money better spent on beefed-up services provided by community organizations – a model used in states like Missouri, which cut recidivism to 30%.
Criminal justice experts say Carrión’s approach holds great promise. “We need to find a way to reinvest this money and get it into communities where it belongs,” says Ellen Schall, dean of the Wagner School, a former commissioner of the city’s Department of Juvenile Justice.
Read the full column here.