Policy Priorities

Policy Priorities image of kids

Youth Justice

 The Children’s Defense Fund initiated its national Cradle to Prison Pipeline campaign to reduce the detention and incarceration of youth and young adults by increasing the preventative supports and services children need, such as quality early childhood development, education services, and comprehensive health and mental health coverage. The Children’s Defense Fund – NY’s Youth Justice work aims to ensure that justice-impacted young people are treated in age appropriate ways that meet their rehabilitative needs and ensure their safety while in the system and decrease the likelihood that they will re-enter the system in the future.  Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility is one of the most important ways in which we can improve New York’s current inadequate response to youth who are accused of committing crimes. Just as important is improving conditions of confinement, re-entry supports and alternatives to justice-involvement for youth. Through on-going advocacy and analysis of policies impacting justice-impacted youth, we develop strategies to work towards our goal of ensuring all youth are treated in age appropriate ways by the justice system.   


 Raise the Age – New York: a campaign to build public awareness and advocate for comprehensive legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State.

Rikers Island Advocacy: an advocacy effort, in coordination with our partners in the NYC Juvenile Justice Coalition, to remove youth from solitary confinement and other forms of punitive segregation harmful to them.

Close to Home Monitoring: a directed monitoring project, in coordination with our partners in the NYC Juvenile Justice Coalition, to monitor the roll-out and implementation of the Close to Home Initiative.


CDF-NY regularly testifies at hearings in support of policy changes to support court-involved and incarcerated youth. Check out our testimony below.

Click here to read our 2014 testimony on the treatment of adolescents at Rikers Island

Click to read our 2010 testimony to the New York City Council

Click to read our 2013 testimony on violence at Riker's Island

Click to read our 2013 testimony on data and incident reports on youth detained