Support Reform of the Juvenile Justice System and Increase the Capacity for Community-Based Programs
Published on November 16th, 2011
An effective juvenile justice system must be restorative and therapeutic in nature rather than retributive. It must seek to rehabilitate youth who come into contact with the criminal justice system, place crime within a community context, and offer alternatives to incarceration of juveniles while holding public safety paramount. Juvenile detention centers should be the last resort rather than the norm. Community-based strategies allow youth who do not represent a threat to community safety to stay with their families and provide greater access to supportive interventions. This strategy facilitates greater collaboration between state, city and county agencies and community-based programs with social service and restorative justice expertise. Reforms to the juvenile justice system serve the goals of restorative justice practices by bringing healing to youth, families, and neighborhoods impacted by youth crime and offer a more humane alternative for restoring safety to communities. The comprehensive reform of the juvenile justice system is critical and merits swift and decisive action to prevent losing another generation of New York’s youth to a broken system.
The Conference supports the urgent need for reform of the NYS Juvenile Justice system. Strategies for accomplishing comprehensive reform should include:
- Recommitment of funds to prevention programs for at-risk and court-involved youth, including funding for education, job and vocational training;
- Quality rehabilitative services for youth in juvenile justice facilities;
- Downsizing of the state system of juvenile correctional facilities and detention centers;
- Closer oversight and accountability for juvenile detention facilities;
- Reinvestment of funds saved by closing juvenile detention facilities into community-based programs; and
- Redirection of retributive policies to restorative practices such as alternative sentencing programs.
Furthermore, the Conference supports increased resourcing and capacity for community-based strategies for young people designed to keep families intact and address the public safety needs of communities.
Our criminal justice system must be committed to a restoration to wholeness for crime victims, persons who have committed a crime and society, especially when crime involves youth. The Conference joins with advocates for comprehensive juvenile justice reform who were horrified by the abuses uncovered by the report issued to Governor Paterson by the United States Department of Justice in 2009. The Conference also affirms the recommendations outlined in the report of the Vera Institute’s Task Force on Transforming Juvenile Justice many of which are outlined in the Conference position stated above. We are also supportive of reforms that were articulated by Governor Cuomo in his 2011 State of the State Address.
Protecting public safety requires upholding the sanctity and dignity of every human life and this requires a commitment to restorative and rehabilitative practices within the juvenile justice system. The Conference recommends legislators work together with community members to research juvenile justice best practices from across the nation in order to identify and develop the most effective interventions. The Conference looks forward to collaborating with all levels of government to uphold our commitment to the youth of New York, especially court-involved and at-risk children and adolescents, their families, and our communities. It is essential to the safety of society that youth who have committed an offense be given every opportunity to restore themselves to wholeness and re-integrate themselves as productive, law abiding members of the community.
You can download this document, Juvenile Justice Reform, in PDF form.