Youth Justice

Raising the age of criminal responsibility is one of the most important ways in which we can improve New York State’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 ongoing 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. While the vast majority of system involved youth are boys, CDF-NY additionally pays close attention to the needs of justice-involved girls and LGBTQ youth, with a focus on researching the specific needs of these populations and advocating for appropriate policies, supports and interventions.

Through its Youth Justice work, the Children’s Defense Fund–New York aims to decrease the disproportionate number of youth of color that are involved in the justice system to begin with and to ensure that those who are involved are treated in age-appropriate ways that meet their rehabilitative needs, ensure their safety while in the system and decrease the likelihood that they will re-enter it in the future.

Youth Charged as Adults

New York is one of only two states where youth are automatically treated as adults, regardless of the offense, starting at age 16. CDF-NY is a lead in the Raise the Age–New York campaign to build public awareness and advocate for comprehensive legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York State. Our efforts include advocating for youth currently impacted by the adult justice system and incarcerated in adult correctional settings. Recent successes include the removal of 16- and 17-year-olds from solitary confinement in New York City jails. 

Older Youth & Young Adult Justice

CDF-NY’s advocacy includes researching best practices for justice system involved, older youth and young adults (18-24) and ensuring they receive needed supports to adequately address their needs and prevent re-entry into the justice system. This advocacy also includes efforts to improve conditions for adolescents and young adults in adult correctional settings, including efforts to remove youth from any form of harmful punitive segregation, such as solitary confinement, and efforts to improve age-appropriate programming for older youth and young adults in adult correctional settings.

Juvenile Justice Advocacy

In New York State, youth ages 7—15 can be arrested and charged with juvenile delinquency. CDF-NY advocates for youth charged with juvenile delinquency to ensure they are provided interventions and resources to adequately address their needs and prevent re-entry. We monitor the roll-out and implementation of the Close to Home Initiative. CDF-NY is a member of the New York Juvenile Justice Coalition’s “Conditions of Confinement” and “LGTQ” workgroups with focused efforts respectively addressing conditions of youth in all forms of juvenile detention and placement as well as the specific needs of LGBTQ system-impacted youth. We sit on two subcommittees of New York City’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee which, respectively, address the educational needs of juvenile justice system involved youth and early response and diversion for youth at risk of juvenile justice system involvement.

Publications, Testimony & Resources

Public Hearing on Proposed Revisions to the Citywide Behavioral Expectations to Support Student Learning

August 8, 2016

New York State Assembly Hearing on Criminal Justice May 2015

Assembly Standing Committee on Codes Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary Assembly Standing Committee on Correction New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus

May 7, 2015

City Budget Testimony 2015

March 24, 2015

CDF-NY Public Protection Hearing Testimony

FY2015 Joint Legislative Hearing on Public Protection 2015-2016 Executive Budget Proposal

February 26, 2015

CDF-NY’s Testimony on FY2015 Budget Provisions Related to Human Services

FY2015 Joint Legislative Hearing on Human Services 2015 - 2016 Executive Budget Proposal

February 14, 2015

Board of Correction ESHU Dec 2014

December 19, 2014

Public Hearing on Proposed Rule Regarding Enhanced Supervision Housing

December 19, 2014

Fire and Criminal Justice Services, and Juvenile Justice Testimony

October 8, 2014

Solitary Confinement Testimony NYS Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights

July 10, 2014

JJC LGBTQ Work Group Girls in JJ

June 17, 2014

Violence at Rikers Testimony June 2014

June 12, 2014

Testimony 6.12 NYC DOE Discipline Code Hearing

We call upon the DOE to engage in a public campaign regarding the importance of using positive alternatives to zero tolerance discipline... We believe that it is critically important that DOE promote the need positive alternatives much more publicly.

June 5, 2012

Close to Home Initiative Non Secure Placement Hearing Testimony

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start , a Head Start , a Fair Start , a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

May 8, 2012

Raising New York’s Age of Criminal Responsibility

December 31, 2011

Testimony 11.11 NYC DOE City Council Hearing

When we consider the needs of the approximately 1.1 million children served in our city's schools, we know that much more remains to be done to ensure that training initiatives become more than just ad hoc programs utilized by a handful of schools. We must reduce suspensions by investing in meaningful reforms that will ensure that New York City's more than 1,600 schools can cap the pipeline that is funneling too many of our city's children toward failure, unemployment, and incarceration.

November 30, 2011

Youth and Community Justice Tool-Kit

Policy failures in these area have long-term effects on youth and communities. However, youth and community voices are often missing at decision making tables. We firmly believe that those who are most affected by policy successes or failures are the best advocates for change in our communities. Recognizing the proverbial “full plates” that educators must balance, we compiled this Youth and Community Justice Tool-kit to offer educators easily-accessible information and interactive ways to teach it to their young people.

January 1, 2011

New DC Juvenile Facility

Fenty's efforts and Schiraldi's operational philosophy have now come together to produce a dramatic new 60-bed center, the District of Columbia New Beginnings Youth Development Center, in Laurel, Maryland.

May 1, 2009

Characteristics of Youth in Facilities

Youth demographics in New York State Of Children and Family Services

December 31, 2008

State of New York's Children

April 1, 2008

Inmates Strut Their Stuff

Now, at Oak Hill, where he least expected it, he has a new kind of opportunity: When he finishes talking to me, Anthony dons a robe of glorious colors, takes the stage and seeks to guide Macbeth away from evil: "Merciful powers, restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature gives way to in repose!"

March 15, 2007

Contact

For more information on
CDF-NY’s Youth Justice work,
please contact:

Elizabeth Powers, LMSW
Juvenile Justice Policy Associate