NEW YORK - Facing a system in crisis and an economy on the brink of collapse, Senate Democrats joined with child advocates and clergy to announce their support for Gov. Cuomo’s plans to reform the broken juvenile justice system, and called on Senate Republicans to drop their political demands that stand in the way of needed reform. Led by Senator Velmanette Montgomery, ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Children and Families Services Committee, Senate Democrats seek to build on proposals included in Gov. Cuomo’s 2011-12 Executive Budget by announcing additional policy initiatives to create greater oversight and cost savings for New York taxpayers.
Key Reforms from Gov. Cuomo’s 2011-12 Budget Supported By Senate Democrats:
· Establishing a funding stream to incentivize the creation and use of community-based alternative to detention and residential placement programs by local governments.
· Closing underutilized juvenile justice facilities and reinvesting savings from facility closures into the local communities.
· Increasing staff and the availability of comprehensive education, mental health and substance abuse treatment services at three state-run juvenile justice facilities.
Specific Senate Democratic recommendations and policy initiatives include:
· Legislation to change the family court placement standard for residential placement to avoid unnecessary and costly placements of low-risk youth.
· Increased staff and educational, mental health and substance abuse services at all juvenile justice facilities instead of only at 3 facilities.
· Increased staff training at all juvenile justice facilities.
· Funding for privately-run residential placement outside of the foster care block grant.
· A reduction in required notice prior to the closure of state-run juvenile justice facilities: from 12 months to 90 days.
· Independent juvenile justice oversight.
For years, taxpayers have been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to keep empty facilities open to satisfy local political interests over the interests of children and the state. As part of Senate Democrats’ support for Gov. Cuomo’s blueprint to restructure the budget process, they are calling on Senate Republicans to drop their politically-motivated opposition to juvenile justice reforms so taxpayers stop paying for a government that doesn’t work for them, and children start getting the effective and less costly rehabilitative services they deserve.
Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) said, “By reforming and redesigning New York’s futile juvenile justice system, we can avoid the unnecessary placement of over 500 youth, thus saving taxpayers approximately $124.6 million. I am thankful to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in carrying the banner for reform, and I welcome the opportunity to work with him to improve the lives of our youth, the safety of our communities and the way we utilize our resources in New York.”
Senate Democratic Leader John L. Sampson said, “New Yorkers can't afford to keep paying for an inefficient government that delivers little in return. The sweeping reform and redesign of the juvenile justice system proposed by Governor Cuomo and supported by Senate Democrats will save money for taxpayers and give children the rehabilitative services they deserve. I applaud Governor Cuomo, and commend my colleague, Senator Velmanette Montgomery, for taking significant steps to achieve real reform for our children, taxpayers, and local communities."
Senator Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) said, “In the State of the State speech Governor Cuomo said, ‘An incarceration program is not an employment program. If people need jobs, let's get people jobs. Don't put other people in prison to give some people jobs. Don't put other people in juvenile justice facilities to give some people jobs.’ Senate Republicans have made it clear they disagree with the Governor. By insisting on keeping Upstate juvenile and adult prisons open for some supposed economic benefit, they are robbing our children of critical services and wasting public dollars at a time when we are in dire fiscal crisis and our children are in greatest need. This cannot be allowed.”
Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn/Manhattan) said, “Governor Cuomo is right that our juvenile justice system is in need of fundamental reform. I commend him and Senator Montgomery for pushing to create a system that would be more just and more effective for young people and create a better long-term economic strategy for Upstate communities."
Senator Thomas K. Duane (D-Manhattan) said, “New York has failed in its mission to protect its at-risk youth. Poor children who live in non-existent or dangerous living conditions more often than not find themselves trapped in a juvenile justice system that warehouses them with painful consequences. With poor mental health services, isolation, staff violence and geographic distance from loved ones, many youth leave the system deeply scared and likely to re-offend. Our children need help, not shackles. Although our work will never be finished, the juvenile justice package offered today will go a long way toward creating a healthy, safe and just environment, making it possible for our children to receive the help they need, when they need it. The neglect and poor policies of the past can no longer be tolerated.”
Stephanie Gendell, Citizens' Committee for Children of New York said, “It is long past time to reform New York's Juvenile Justice system – our children and youth cannot wait any longer. We must close under-utilized and ineffective Upstate juvenile placement facilities without waiting 12 months. These facilities are ineffective because they produce a recidivism rate of 80%, separate children from their families, schools, and communities, and fail to address the needs of the young people they are supposed to serve. Instead, we must reinvest the savings we
can achieve from closing facilities into the community-based programs that have been proven to
help youth achieve positive outcomes and become successful adults. These steps must be taken because they are good for New York's children, New York's families, New York's communities, and New York's taxpayers.”
The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson, Executive Director, Children’s Defense Fund said, “Children’s Defense Fund- NY thanks Senator Montgomery for her commitment to reforming New York State’s juvenile justice system and making real investments in youth and their communities. The fight to maintain system accountability and to support court-involved youth and their communities is often a difficult one. This is especially true in what has been such a prolonged and dismal fiscal climate. The payoff, however, in keeping integrity with the fight for reform is that these real reforms and investments will exponentially benefit our children, our communities, and our state in the future. We know what works for children, and we know what doesn’t. We absolutely must press forward in this knowledge and demand that our laws, budgets, and policies reflect the best of our hopes met by the best of our common sense. That is what's right for all children, but particularly for those most at-risk.”
Ted Houghton, Executive Director - Supportive Housing Network of New York said, “The Supportive Housing Network wholeheartedly supports Senator Montgomery and Governor Cuomo's efforts to re-imagine New York's juvenile justice system, including investments in supportive housing and upstream programs that keep high-risk youth out of the system entirely.”
Robert McMinn, Associate for Public Policy and Government Relations, Associate for Immigrant and Latino/Hispanic Services – Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services said, “Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services applaud Senator Montgomery, Senate Minority Leader Sampson and Commissioner Gladys Carrion’s longstanding efforts to reform New York’s ineffective juvenile facilities and to shift resources towards rehabilitative services for youth . As a provider of therapeutic services for youth Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services is well aware that treatment programs are less expensive and are clinically proven to be more effective at rehabilitating youth convicted of non-violent criminal offenses. We have seen firsthand how children in the juvenile system are overwhelmingly arrested whereas treatment programs cut recidivism dramatically. We are very pleased to that these reforms are supported by Governor Cuomo and are hopeful that reform legislation will finally be successful this year.”