Testimony delivered before the City Council’s Committee on Juvenile Justice on updates of New York City’s implementation of Raise the Age

Dana Kaplan, Deputy Director at the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice - September 20, 2018

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Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice
New York City Council
Committee on Juvenile Justice
September 20, 2018

Good morning Chair King and members of the Committee on Juvenile Justice. My name is Dana Kaplan and I am Deputy Director at the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (“MOCJ”).  Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  I am joined by others from the administration to assist with answering questions.

As you know, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice advises the Mayor on public safety strategy and, together with partners inside and outside of government, develops and implements policies that promote safety and fairness and reduce unnecessary incarceration.

The topic of today’s hearing—update on New York City’s implementation of Raise the Age (“RTA”)—is a major milestone in the larger context of justice reform in our city.  In the last four years in New York City, we have seen an acceleration of the trends that have defined the public safety landscape over the last three decades and made this the safest big City in the country. While jail and prison populations around the country increased, New York City’s jail population has fallen by half since 1990. And in the last four years, the jail population dropped by 27%, giving us the lowest incarceration rate of any big city and the steepest four-year decline in the size of the jail population since 1998. Since 2014, the number of 16- and 17-year-olds in custody in particular has dropped approximately 63% (from 234 in January 2014 to 86 in August 2018), and the number of children in secure juvenile detention has dropped approximately 70% (from 129 in January 2013 to 38 in August 2018), even as our crime rate has continued its downward trend. Meanwhile, last year was the safest year in CompStat history, and low-level enforcement has also reduced dramatically.  This is unique proof that jurisdictions can have more safety and smaller jails.

Mayor de Blasio and the commissioners of our Administration for Children’s Services, the New York City Police Department, Department of Correction, Department of Probation, Department of Education, and the Law Department have repeatedly affirmed the City’s support for raising the age of criminal responsibility prior to its passage.  Additionally, Elizabeth Glazer, the Director of my office participated in the Governor’s commission and was integral in developing the initial proposal for Raise the Age in 2015.

New York City has long been a supporter of treating 16- and 17-year-olds more appropriately within the juvenile justice system, and applauded the State for its passage of RTA in April of 2017.  Since then, the City has been working purposefully to prepare for its implementation, including the removal of all adolescents from Rikers Island by October 1st, 2018, on a timeline shorter than any other jurisdiction in New York State.

As we testified in April 2018 before this committee, since passage of Raise the Age in April 2017, the City has been working tirelessly to prepare for its implementation. We formed inter-agency Working Groups focused on Court Processing, Programming and Diversion, Data/Analytics, and Facilities, with participation from the Courts, District Attorneys, Public Defenders and nine city agencies responsible for implementation. We are engaging with our non-profit partners and providers to prepare for implementation, and have brought in local and national technical assistance providers to assist our efforts. Finally, we have also been meeting regularly with the labor unions representing the affected employees on this implementation effort, specifically to address their concerns.  We look forward to a collaborative relationship with the unions in making the implementation of Raise the Age a success.

The following updates are in addition to our April 2018 testimony.

Adolescent Population Reduction
Since the Mayor took office in January 2014, the number of adolescents in custody has fallen by more than 53%, and our ADP has remained under 100 since June of 2018.  To further these reductions, the City recently invested an additional $8 million in initiatives to divert 16- and 17- year olds from detention, where appropriate, or shorten their length of stay in jail. These initiatives, in partnership with criminal justice system and service provider partners, include: expanded supervised release, bail expediting, in-court case processing support, individual case planning resources for young people who are detained, family therapy, and intensive mentoring.   Our success in safely reducing the population of young people in detention is a key component to why we are well poised for success in implementation at this point.

Training on What to Expect
The Court Processes Working Group, Chaired by Judge Edwina Mendelson, has established a set of shared core values to inform the City’s implementation of Raise the Age.  This group has spearheaded a number of critical analyses and established protocols that will anchor implementation citywide.

Accordingly, the Raise the Age Implementation Task Force has developed a citywide “Implementation Guide” describing in detail how each system point and stakeholder will be impacted by the implementation of Raise the Age. The Guide has been vetted by the court system, district attorneys, public defenders, and representatives from across the city agencies involved in implementation and reflects a culmination of the City’s efforts to enter October 2018 fully prepared to implement Raise the Age.  The guide will be publicly released tomorrow and will be made available on the MOCJ website.

Youth Parts
Raise the Age requires the creation of new, specialized “Youth Parts” in the superior court of each county. Cases for all 13-15-year-old Juvenile Offenders (JOs) and all 16-year-old Adolescent Offenders (beginning October 1, 2018) and 17-year-old Adolescent Offenders (beginning October 1, 2019) will originate in the Youth Part. Adolescent Offenders are all 16- or 17-year-olds who are charged with a felony offense.

Youth Part judges and backup judges have been designated in all counties. Additionally, the Office of Court Administration completed a three-week training for judges and an additional convening for Youth Part judges and their court attorneys.

In recognition that Raise the Age may require defense attorneys to represent clients across court jurisdictions in the event that a case is removed from the Youth Part to Family Court, the City supported a specialized training for defense attorneys who have practiced in the adult system only. Legal Aid delivered two-half day CLE training sessions on the basics of juvenile delinquency practice to a range of adult defense practitioners.

Finally, New York City Department of Probation Commissioner Ana Bermudez will hold sessions in each borough for prosecutors and defense attorneys to describe the role of Probation in the juvenile justice system.

New Alternatives to detention in the Youth Part
In addition to existing alternatives to incarceration (ATIs), there will be two pre-disposition alternative to detention (ATD) program options for young people in the Youth Part:

1. The NYC Department of Probation will make Intensive Community Monitoring (ICM) available to any young person with a case pending at the direction of the judge and defense bar. The intervention will be modeled on the ICM program currently offered in Family Court.

2. MOCJ will expand Supervised Release to serve more young people. Supervised Release services are provided by contracted community-based organizations.

The availability of these ATD programs for children whose cases are heard in the Youth Part will decrease the number of children who are held pre-trial in detention.

New after-hours processing for Juvenile Delinquents
Currently, Juvenile Delinquents arrested after the operating hours of Family Court, are transported directly to detention, likely for an overnight stay.  Beginning October 1, 2018, the Family Court system will expand the hours during which Juvenile Delinquents can instead be processed in court following arrest. This will increase the number of children who are processed on the same day of arrest, thereby reducing unnecessary overnight stays in detention and contributing to fairer and speedier outcomes for children and their families.

Practically speaking, this means that Juvenile Delinquents who cannot be transported to Family Court by the arresting officer during the court’s business hours will be transported by the arresting officer to Manahttan Criminal Court at 100 Centre Street, the same location currently used for weekend juvenile pre-petition hearings.  Intake and processing of Juvenile Delinquents at Manhattan Criminal Court will begin at 4:00pm or 5:00pm, seven nights per week; a judge will be available to hear pre-petition hearings, if necessary, during the dinner hour beginning at 9:00pm.

Facilities
Significant renovations have been underway at both Crossroads and Horizon to prepare them to house the significantly expanded number of young people post Raise the Age, with improvements targeting safety, programming, and administrative space. Both facilities will have an operational capacity of 106.We will house all Juvenile Delinquents, Juvenile Offenders, and Adolescent Offenders at Crossroads, which as you know currently holds all of the young people in the ACS system.  ACS will bring on an additional 175 Youth Development Specialists at this facility by October.We will transfer all of the 16- and 17-year olds-who are currently held on Rikers at RNDC to Horizon, as well as all newly arrested 17-year-olds.  The facility will be jointly staffed by DOC and ACS Programming staff, with a phased transition to all ACS staff, which we are aiming to complete within the next year and a half through new hiring.  The State has denied our request to allow limited interaction between this population and other young people of similar charge severity and age, which we believe is a policy of segregation that is outside of the spirit of Raise the Age.  Because of our success in reducing the number of young people in detention it will not impede our ability to meet the October 1st deadline, and we will submit a new waiver request to the State if need be over the course of implementation.Horizon and Crossroads will both offer the following programming to adolescents:

• Enrichment Programming;
• Vocational training;
• Program Counselor-led programming (such as interactive Journaling,
Project Adventure Workshops, Youth Communication, etc.); and
• Access to religious services.

At both sites, youth will attend school for a full school day – either working towards a high school diploma or high school equivalency. ACS and DOC have been working diligently to develop one operational set of standards and practices to ensure that the law and spirit of Raise the Age is implemented effectively, while adhering to the regulations outlined by OCFS and SCOC. The City is very clear on the core value of Raise the Age—that juveniles should be treated as juveniles—and every part of the planning process has been guided by this principle.

Raise the Age Citywide Conference
Finally, on September 21st the City is holding a conference, “Raising the Age for a Fairer New York,” which will feature talks on topics such as adolescent brain development, racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice, pretrial release and bail, crossover youth, trauma-informed care, and meeting the educational needs of justice-involved youth. We will equip practitioners with an understanding of the operational details of how Raise the Age will unfold in New York City, and of best practices in juvenile justice and youth development nationwide.

Closing
New York City has long supported reforms that treat 16 and 17-year-olds as juveniles to produce the best possible outcomes for young people, their families, and for public safety.  We are well positioned to build on the significant progress that we have made in New York City’s juvenile and young adult justice systems to date. Yet, our work to ensure the successful implementation of this law will not conclude on October 1. In appreciation of the required coordination, between City agencies, the Courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, community and neighborhood providers, as well as collaboration between the State and local government, the City will lead an ongoing collaborative effort to understand the impact of the law.

With the ongoing collaboration of our partners throughout the city, we will realize the goals of Raise the Age and ensure a fairer justice system for the children of New York.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify here today.  I would now turn to my colleague Deputy Commissioner Felipe Franco to provide further detail on implementation by ACS and then I would be happy to answer any questions.