For immediate release: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Western New York Regional Youth Justice Team begins work; will provide a local voice in the state's juvenile justice system reform effort
Team is one of eight created by New York State to improve services, outcomes for youth involved in the local, state juvenile justice system
The Western New York Regional Youth Justice Team, one of eight established across the state as part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s ongoing efforts to reform New York’s juvenile justice system, met for the first time today in Buffalo, bringing together key partners to begin discussing ways to improve outcomes and continue to reduce the number of youth who become involved in the system.
Representatives from county probation and social services departments, county attorneys’ offices, law enforcement and service providers comprise the team, which met today at the Mohawk Building. More than 30 agencies and organizations from Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties are participating in the initiative.
The team will seek broad community involvement in the state’s juvenile justice reform efforts and strengthen communication between state policy makers and local stakeholders, including service providers, advocates, the courts and law enforcement agencies. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the Office of the Governor’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety are coordinating the teams.
DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, “Under the Governor’s leadership, the state has taken significant steps to reform and improve its juvenile justice system by creating programs and an infrastructure that provide youth a path toward a productive, crime-free life. These Regional Youth Justice Teams will provide local communities with an opportunity to have a real voice in those reform efforts and have a direct line of communication to state leaders who are making the decisions to improve the system.”
The teams will identify promising local practices and develop strategies to address a variety of issues, including: decreasing the number of children and youth referred to court; addressing disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system; improving access to services; creating partnerships among the courts, local communities and state agencies in the development of community-based interventions; and responding to federal, state and private grant opportunities.
The Erie County Probation Department is serving as lead agency for the team. In addition to representatives from that office, representatives from other agencies and organizations attending today’s meeting include probation departments from Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties; social services from Allegany, Erie and Niagara counties, family courts from Allegany, Erie and Niagara; county attorneys from Allegany and Erie counties, as well as child and family advocates from all five counties.
The team will use data compiled by the DCJS Office of Justice Research and Performance from a variety of sources, including local police agencies and probation departments, the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and the state Office of Court Administration, to inform its work.
Data from 2012 show that statewide, fewer juveniles were placed in detention last year, a continuation of the significant decline in juvenile arrests that began in 2011, and a greater number of youths diverted from family courts by local probation departments.
Key statewide juvenile justice data trends for last year as compared to 2011:
- Juvenile arrests in New York City declined 22 percent.
- In the 57 counties outside of the city, juvenile arrests/criminal activity decreased 9 percent. In the Western New York counties, the number of juvenile arrests totaled 2,011, an 11 percent decrease from 2011 and a 27 percent decrease since 2009.
- The number of juvenile offender arrests reported statewide last year – 535 – was the fewest since the Juvenile Offender Act of 1978 took effect. Juvenile offenders are 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds charged with serious crimes, such as robbery, sex offenses and murder, for which they can be prosecuted as adults. Last year, there were a total of 27 juvenile offenders arrested in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties. In 2011, there were 30 juvenile offender arrests made in the Western New York counties.
Comprehensive statewide, county-level and regional juvenile justice data can be found here: http://www.nysjjag.org/our-work/juvenile-justice-data.html.
Since Governor Cuomo took office in 2011, the state has implemented several juvenile justice reforms, designed so that only those youth who pose a risk to the community are sent to detention while their cases are pending or placement after their cases are adjudicated. Those initiatives include:
- Adoption of the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative, which promotes changes to policies, practices and programs that are designed to reduce reliance on secure confinement while improving public safety, reduce racial disparities and bias, save money and foster continuous improvement of the juvenile justice system.
- Introduction of objective, risk assessment tools designed to determine whether youths present a risk to public safety and should be confined.
- Diversion of state funding from detention to community-based support programs, such as family support, alternative housing options and temporary respite care. These community-based programs target youth with mental health disorders, substance abuse problems, or learning disorders that place them at risk for detention after arrest or placement after detention. In the last two years, 18 counties Upstate have spent slightly more than $3 million funds on community-based programs instead of detention.
In addition to the Mid-Hudson Region, Regional Youth Justice Teams have been established in the following regions: Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, North Country, Long Island, New York City and Western New York. The New York City, Capital Region, North Country and Long Island teams have already held their initial meetings; the remaining regional teams will meet this week and next.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.
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