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The juvenile justice system in New York State.


To evaluate the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system.

New York City
December 18, 2006
10:30 AM
250 Broadway
Assembly Hearing Room 1923, 19th Floor

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Division of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) is responsible for the incarceration or placement of juveniles. These youth can enter the system as early as age seven and may end up staying at these facilities until they reach their 21st birthday. According to OCFS, there were over 3,000 youth incarcerated in state juvenile facilities as of December 2004.

The protection of children is one of the paramount responsibilities of government. New York State strives to uphold that responsibility with its juvenile population. However, many concerns about the effectiveness of New York State's juvenile justice system have been raised. Youth of color are disproportionately incarcerated in OCFS facilities. According to a 2004 OCFS annual report, 64% of youth admitted to OCFS custody were African American, and only 13% of admissions were non-Hispanic whites. In 2004, 63% of youth admitted to custody were from New York City and were placed outside of New York City. Many youth confined to OCFS facilities have special needs. It has been reported that many youth in these State facilities are not getting their needs met. Many youth report being treated harshly and unfairly such as having been restrained unnecessarily and with excessive force. Are these young people getting the appropriate rehabilitative services? Recidivism rates show otherwise. The most recent data came from a 1999 recidivism study. The study indicated that 81% of boys and 45% of girls released from OCFS custody were rearrested within 36 months.

Incarcerating a youth in an OCFS facility is very expensive. According to juvenile justice advocates, New York State spends nearly $150 million a year to incarcerate youth in OCFS juvenile facilities. This calculates to approximately $150,000 per year per youth. These young people are to be provided with counseling, health, mental health, educational and aftercare services. Are the young people committed into the custody of OCFS getting the proper care and services necessary to allow them to reenter their community and be productive citizens?

The Committee is interested in eliciting testimony regarding the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system and to provide us with testimony for potential policy changes to improve the current system.

Please see below for a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony, which will be discussed at the hearing.

Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committees at the above hearing should complete and return the reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes' duration. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committees will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Assemblyman William Scarborough
Committee on Children and Families

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol
Committee on Codes


  1. Are young people of color disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system? If so, what are the factors that may lead to this? Are there ways the system can change to address this issue? Based on demographics, are there any special services that DRS does not adequately provide? Please explain.

  2. The recidivism rate for these youth seems to be very high. What if anything is being done to modify programs to address this problem? According to child advocates, it is estimated that $1 million is budgeted for OCFS aftercare services. Does OCFS provide adequate aftercare services to youth who are released from their custody? Please explain. Are aftercare services cost effective? What if anything should be done in this area?

  3. Are there any advantages or disadvantages of increasing the role of voluntary agencies in the provision of special services to youth in custody of DRS, e.g. substance abuse treatment, mental health, sexual offender treatment and sexual abuse therapy? Please explain.

  4. It has been reported that many youth entering OCFS were convicted of non-violent, low-level crimes. Should DRS expand its practice of contracting with voluntary agencies to provide placement services? Please explain. Should the role of restitution and community services be expanded?

  5. Many of the youth in OCFS facilities are placed hundreds of miles away from their families and communities. Does this make reentry more difficult for these youth in placement? Should DRS work better with the families of youth in its custody? Please explain.

  6. Vocational training is extremely important for some of these youth placed in OCFS custody. What are the different vocational programs offered to both boys and girls in placement? Are there enough staff available to provide these youth adequate classroom instruction to properly equip youth for economic survival upon their release? If not, why? Should this list of vocational programs be expanded? If so, what should be added?

  7. What is the percentage of LGBT youth placed in OCFS custody? Is there a need for increased training for staff dealing with this population? Please explain. Are there policies in place to protect this population in placement?

  8. A recent report indicates that many youth in placement are frequently restrained with excessive force. Can you tell us the reasons why a youth may be restrained by staff and what the procedures are? What if anything should be done with regard to the restraining policies within the DRS?

  9. It has been reported that youth in these facilities are not confident in the grievance procedures while in placement. Please explain the grievance procedure at OCFS facilities. Are the youth properly informed of their rights? Does this process work for the youth placed? How often does an ombudsman visit the facilities? Do you think this is adequate? Please explain.

  10. What are the job qualifications for DRS staff? What are the responsibilities of these staff? Should the qualifications or responsibilities be revised? If so, please explain. What accountability is there in the juvenile justice system when issues arise concerning the OCFS staff? What is the daily supervision and support of these workers? Are more resources and training needed to make appropriate safety assessments and decisions?

  11. Is there any oversight of the DRS? If so, what kind of oversight is there? Is this oversight sufficient to protect children and to ensure that policies and procedures are being followed? Do the OCFS regional offices play any oversight role?

  12. Does the Ombudsman's office provide adequate oversight of these facilities? Please explain. Is there a need for an independent Office of the Child Advocate to provide additional oversight and accountability of the juvenile justice system? If so, what should it look like?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system in New York State are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Judi West
Legislative Analyst
Assembly Committee on Children and Families
Room 522 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
Email: bestj@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4371
Fax: (518) 455-4693

box I plan to attend the public hearing on the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system in New York State, to be conducted by the Assembly Committees on Children and Families and Codes on December 13, 2006 in NYC.

box I plan to make a public statement at the hearing. My statement will be limited to 10 minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise. I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement.


I will address my remarks to the following subjects:

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