Before sharing our accomplishments and expansion efforts, let’s take a moment to acknowledge numerous people and organizations that we have had the privilege of working with over the past few years to implement Reclaiming Futures’ version of Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (RF-SBIRT).
Blog: New York
Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health.
Teen Drug Overdose Death Rate Doubles Over Last Decade (Psychiatry Advisor)
Trust For America's Health released a new report with findings that the American drug overdose mortality rate has more than doubled over the last ten years, and especially among young men between the ages of 12 to 25 years old. Prescription drugs were found to be responsible for many of the overdoses, and were also found to be connected to heroin addictions in young people.
Below you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance use and teen mental health areas. We encourage you to browse and to post!
Each year, more than 10,000 teens aged 15 and younger are arrested by police. They begin their journey into the criminal justice system with a visit to an intake officer at the Department of Probation. Increasingly, the trip stops there. In a remarkable turnaround, the probation department has become an off-ramp for thousands of teens each year, diverting them away from court and into short-term community programs.
The number of teens aged 15 and under whose cases have been “adjusted” and closed by the probation department increased 47 percent between 2009 and last year, and has more than doubled since 2006. In 2011, 4,564 teens under age 16 arrested in New York City—38 percent of the total—had their cases closed through adjustment, up from 3,107 two years earlier.
Today, the city funds nearly 30 community-based adjustment programs, serving just over 800 young people as of June. The terms of an adjustment can include restitution for victims and the completion of one of these special programs, which involve community service or other projects. Adjustment periods typically last 60 days, though they can be extended to four months with a judge’s approval. If a young person meets the terms, he or she walks away from the case with no need to go deeper into the justice system. And that’s exactly the point: Especially for low-level offenders, explains Deputy Commissioner of Probation Ana Bermudez, involvement with the justice system often does more harm than good. “There is significant research that youth outcomes actually deteriorate with court processing, particularly when you’re looking at low-risk youth,” she says. “You interfere with those supports that were making them low-risk in the first place.”
The policy of trying 16- and 17-year-old nonviolent offenders as adults in criminal court has a damaging effect on the lifetime earnings potential of nearly 1,000 teenaged New Yorkers each year—costing them an estimated, cumulative total of between $50 million and $60 million in lost income over the course of their lives.
A Child Welfare Watch analysis demonstrates that the policy of trying 16- and 17-year-old nonviolent felony and misdemeanor offenders in adult criminal court has a high cost in foregone wages for each annual cohort of 16- and 17-year-olds that passes through the adult criminal courts, and also costs the government unknown millions in lost taxes.
The Watch reached its estimate using a method similar to that applied by researchers at the Vera Institute of Justice when they performed a 2011 cost-benefit analysis for a North Carolina state legislature task force. At the time, North Carolina was considering a legislative change that would have shifted cases of 16- and 17-year-olds charged with nonviolent crime to the state’s juvenile system.
Our analysis did not approach the full scope of the North Carolina study. Instead, we adapted one particular component—the cost of the current policy in lost earnings potential for young people tried in adult court who end up with a permanent criminal record. The authors of the North Carolina analysis calculated the loss in wages over a lifetime, finding that the average net present value of the earning differential between people with a record and those without totals $61,691 per person.
Now that the 2012 election is over, attention in Washington, D.C., will at last shift to other important subjects, including the impending “fiscal cliff” and the priorities of the “lame duck” Congress. But the refocus on policy also presents an opportunity to think seriously about how to direct government funds toward smart initiatives that deliver real-world results.
One way to do that is by funding “what works” initiatives such as social impact bonds. This new type of bond is an innovative financing tool for social programs in which government agencies contract external organizations to achieve measurable, positive social outcomes on key issues, such as homelessness or juvenile delinquency. Payment by the government is made only after the results have been achieved, and the government doesn’t spend a dime on programs that don’t deliver results.
While there are other outcome-based financing tools that governments can—and should—consider, 2012 has already been a blockbuster year for social impact bonds, with both New York City and the state of Massachusetts announcing details of the first two agreements to be inked in the United States. And as states and cities struggle with the current fiscal and political climate, achieving measurable results with limited means will become even more attractive.
A resident of East Harlem used to be somewhat of a problem child. He was always running around and banging on cans and tapping on walls. His mother felt helpless. Finally, one of her neighbors suggested that she send her child to "drum school." She followed this advice. And the child grew up to become Tito Puente, the King of Latin Music.
There is a valuable lesson in this little story.
It is often the family and community that know best how to provide support and solutions for our "problem children." New York's Penal Law and related statutes, however, often undermine or fail to recognize the power of families to be effective, if not indispensable, partners in the solution.
New York is one of only two states in the nation (North Carolina is the other) that sets the age of criminal responsibility as low as 16. New York also tries children as young as 13 as adults when they are accused of the most serious crimes.
In September 2011, Phoenix House, one of the nation’s leading non-profit providers of substance abuse treatment, received a two-year grant from the Department of Justice to address the issue of youth violence using a curriculum called the West Side Story Project. For the past year, Phoenix House has been working with young adults at six of our program sites to deconstruct cultural stereotypes, build relationships with members of law enforcement, and promote peaceful conflict resolution – using themes and content from the musical West Side Story.
Funded via the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the West Side Story Project got its start in Seattle in 2007, with the goal of increasing the capacity of law enforcement agencies to positively interact with at-risk kids through community partnerships. Phoenix House is fortunate to have had the project’s creator, Anna Laszlo, guiding our implementation of the grant across the country. Our work would not be possible without the participation of police departments in Arlington, Virginia; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles and Santa Ana, California; and New York City and Suffolk County, New York.
We realize that many of our readers spent at least part of August traveling and spending time away from the computer. So, we've put together a little recap of our most popular juvenile justice blog posts of August 2012.
10. A Look Back on 11 Years of Juvenile Justice Reform
Earlier this summer, the National Conference of State Legislatures published a report detailing the progress made in the juvenile justice arena at the state and national levels.
9. Funding Opportunity: Improve Outcomes for Boys of Color
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a new call for proposals for 10 grants of up to $500,000 each. The Forward Promise initiative is looking for innovative, community-based projects working to strengthen health, education and employment outcomes for middle school and high school-aged boys and young men of color.
Goldman Sachs is investing almost $10 million in a government program to reduce recidivism rates among adolescent men.
Earlier today, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Goldman Sachs would provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four year program to reduce the rate at which teen boys incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend. Goldman Sachs is providing the financing through a social impact bond and will only be repaid if the program reduces recidivism rates by more than 10%. Currently, nearly 50% of the young men released from Rikers reoffend within one year.
According to the New York Times:
The Goldman money will be used to pay MDRC, a social services provider, to design and oversee the program. If the program reduces recidivism by 10 percent, Goldman would be repaid the full $9.6 million; if recidivism drops more, Goldman could make as much as $2.1 million in profit; if recidivism does not drop by at least 10 percent, Goldman would lose as much as $2.4 million.
STRIVE, a New York City-based organization with 21 affiliates throughout the United States, was recently awarded a three-year, $5 million grant from the United States Department of Labor for a new, nationwide initiative called STRIVE for the Future.
The program is centered on providing services and assistance to formerly incarcerated youth, with the grant expected to benefit about 400 teens.
A recent press release from the organization said the initiative will focus on juveniles ages 14 and older who primarily come from high-poverty and high-crime communities and were involved in the juvenile justice system, but not the adult criminal system, within the last 12 months.
The organization says it will provide numerous tools and services such as career development assistance and various forms of training and education for at-risk youth.
Over in The Atlantic Cities, Richard R. Buery Jr. of the Children's Aid Society has a very compelling piece about the importance of community-based rehabilitation centers in working with troubled youth.
Engaging the local community is vital to the rehabilitation process. For young offenders, receiving supportive services in their home communities, where they can remain connected to families and local institutions, offers the most reliable path for ensuring that they do not grow up to become lifelong criminals. For most children convicted of minor infractions, effective services can be provided while they live at home, avoiding the costs and negative impact of institutionalization. Yet for the past few decades we have failed troubled youth--the vast majority of them black and Latino (84 percent of all admissions in 2009) - by shipping them to juvenile detention facilities hundreds of miles away from home, often for minor infractions.
Cutting these children off from their communities threatens their often fragile family relationships. Worse, young people don't learn to become responsible adults at these facilities--on the contrary, they are often neglected and face abuse. And despite how ineffective and unsafe these facilities are, the city and state spend millions of dollars a year to keep them running. Compared to the alternative, the waste is astonishing. Holding a youth offender in a secure facility costs around $260,000 a year; alternative, community-based treatment programs can cost about $20,000 per child per year, and have better results.
Nathan Jordan is serving a 170-year sentence at Sterling Correction Facility in Colorado for aggravated robbery, motor vehicle theft and possession of a weapon.
But most of his crimes, which did not result in anyone’s death or injury, took place in in the late 1990s, before he was 18 . According to Colorado law, he was a juvenile offender.
So how did Jordan end up with the kind of sentence that might be meted out to serial killers or career criminals?
The answer is devastatingly simple: he was tried in adult court.
In and around New York City, the Bloomberg administration is setting up new group homes for young people aged 15 and under who have been sentenced for crimes. The group homes will be operated by 11 nonprofit providers, with some homes opening as soon as September.
Each group home will house 4 to 24 young people, allowing more than 300 troubled kids to serve their time in the city instead of in upstate juvenile facilities. This will make it easier for them to stay in contact with their families and support networks, which will reduce the likelihood of recidivism.
Residents will live in the group homes for an average of seven months and will attend Department of Education schools during the day. As they get close to completing their sentence, many will return to their former public schools.
From Child Welfare Watch:
Unique circumstances sometimes underlie juvenile delinquency cases. In order to properly handle those cases and prevent further wrongdoing, targeted approaches can specifically address those underlying circumstances in ways traditional juvenile justice systems cannot.
The circuit court in Winnebago County, Illinois, recently initiated the Youth Recovery Court for youths with mental illnesses or substance abuse issues. Specifically limited to youths charged with nonviolent offenses, the court seeks to treat the mental health or substance abuse issue to prevent further delinquency linked to those health issues. This community based program incorporates a high level of family participation to ensure adherence to the treatment plan.
In New York and North Carolina, 16 and 17 year old teens are automatically sent to adult criminal court for criminal offenses, including nonviolent charges.
Lawmakers in North Carolina are already working to raise the juvenile age to 18 and now New York is following suit.
Writing at Child Welfare Watch, Alec Hamilton explains:
The effort to keep nonviolent 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult court has moved to the state legislature, which is considering two new juvenile justice bills. One, based on a proposal by the state’s chief judge, would establish permanent youth courts that prevent those tried for nonviolent offenses from picking up permanent criminal records—but would have little impact for thousands of 16- and 17-year-olds charged each year with violent felonies.
The second would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 for all but those accused of the most serious offenses, sending them automatically through the juvenile justice system...
Legislative observers say the bill that is most likely to move forward is a compromise that reflects the desire of youth advocates, legislators and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to raise the age of adult criminal prosecutions to 18 for nonviolent offenses, but will not overload the Family Court with thousands of new cases. In fact, the new youth courts would be located in and managed by the adult Criminal Court system.
Late Tuesday night, the New York Senate, Assembly and Governor agreed on the 2012-13 budget, which includes an innovative new juvenile justice program.
The “Close to Home” initiative, which would allow New York City to place low and mid-level juvenile delinquents in treatment programs in or near New York City, rather than in facilities hundreds of miles away in upstate New York, was included in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s original budget proposal. The Senate and Assembly, however, first had to approve the measure and pass budgets that included it.
Beginning in September of 2012, youth otherwise placed in non-secure facilities will now be placed in New York City-administered programs and facilities. Youth from limited-secure facilities will be placed in City programs beginning in April of 2013.
These categories of youth in New York are usually tried for misdemeanors or non-violent felonies. When they are sent to facilities far upstate, they are often placed a great distance from their families and communities. This distance from support networks correlates with dismal outcomes—youth recidivism among offenders released from state facilities is over 80 percent after three years. Furthermore, the cost exceeds $250,000 per year, giving taxpayers little return on a high investment.
NEW YORK, N.Y. — On a recent Thursday afternoon in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, in the South Bronx, five 16- and 17-year-old boys met outside the Bronx Criminal Court building to complete court-mandated community service. After appearing before a judge for nonviolent offenses such as shoplifting and graffiti, they’d been assigned to Bronx Community Solutions, an alternative sentencing organization attached to the criminal court, for an afternoon of cleaning up the sidewalks around a recreation center.
Under New York law, most offenders at this age share community service duties with seasoned adult criminals, because at 16, they are automatically charged as adults. These boys were different because they were part of a judicial pilot program that separates 16-and-17-year-old offenders from the rest of the adult criminal population, and also from younger teens. They have been given the chance to do their community service in a custom-designed rehabilitative environment.
In nine counties across New York State, these pilot programs, known as adolescent diversion parts, or ADPs, are the judiciary’s response to legislative inaction on raising the age of criminal responsibility from age 16 to the national standard of 18. Currently, New York and North Carolina are the only two states that automatically charge 16-year-olds as adults, despite the mounting body of clinical research showing that a 16-year-old’s brain capacity is not fully matured. In fact, when New York created its family court system in 1962, the age of adult responsibility was arbitrarily set at 16 with the understanding that the legislature would quickly revisit the issue.
Now, 50 years later, the state’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, is taking a two-pronged approach to changing the way New York handles the 50,000 16- and 17-year-olds arrested in the state each year. For the long term, Lippman is pushing a legislative proposal designed by the state’s sentencing commission to raise the age of criminal responsibility and set up adolescent courts to exclusively serve 16- and 17-year olds charged with nonviolent crimes. Most other states have juvenile courts, but none has a program specifically targeted at the 16- and 17-year-old population.
As California and the nation continue to struggle with budget crises, creative and cost-effective approaches in the provision of services for high-needs youthful offender populations are becoming increasingly necessary.
Leaders in California, Georgia and New York have recently called for reform or “realignment” of their out-of-date state-run juvenile justice systems. While the urgency for reform in many states is a result of strained state budgets, it serves as an opportunity to engage juvenile justice stakeholders to restructure their juvenile justice systems in a more efficient and effective manner.
One population to pay particular attention to when planning for juvenile justice realignment is the disproportionate number of youth with mental health needs in juvenile facilities, known as the “crossover caseload.”
These highest-needs youth have historically been neglected during times of reform, when in fact they are the youth most in need of quality, individualized care. As a result of 1980s mental health system reform, juvenile justice systems, in effect, replaced public psychiatric hospitals in the care of mentally ill youth; despite the fact that the juvenile justice system lacks the resources to provide adequate services for this population.
Although rates of juvenile incarceration have been declining, a disproportionate number of youth in this crossover caseload are still being confined, between 50-70 percent nationally and 42 percent in California, according to conservative estimates.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York recently unveiled his budget plan to policymakers, and included significant juvenile justice reforms in the plan.
After previously closing some of the state’s juvenile lockups due to their ineffectiveness, Governor Cuomo is now asking lawmakers to close additional facilities and to send lower risk youths from New York City to facilities back in their hometown.
New York’s juvenile facilities are expensive and they often don’t work. Right on Crime has previously noted the extraordinary recidivism rates for youth exiting state lockup facilities in New York: over 80% return to a facility of some sort within ten years, and costs stretch over $250,000 per year.
Under Governor Cuomo’s plan, youth currently in non-secure facilities would begin receiving programming closer to home in the next biennium; in the 2014-2015 biennium, youth in limited-secure facilities would be transitioned closer to home.