Children involved in the adult and juvenile justice systems are disproportionately poor youth of color. The institutions they enter, including the courts, government-supervised release, detention and sentenced incarceration have traditionally failed them and their families. Despite children’s well-established rights to safety, developmentally-appropriate supports, programming and education, these justice systems have struggled to effectively balance the need for rehabilitation, accountability and public safety, while also preserving the rights of youth. In New York, there have been major reforms, which have resulted in raising the age of criminal liability, promoting community-based placements and decreasing the need for detention. The challenge ahead is to ensure that recent reforms are implemented with fidelity, that priorities include further improvements to reduce youth contact with the system, that we commit to protect older youth who remain in the adult criminal justice system, and that we build the continuum of services and supports youth and families need to thrive.
We envision justice systems that recognize and meet the needs of youth that emphasize prevention and alternatives to detention, while promoting community-connectedness, principles of positive youth development and restorative justice.
We use a dual lens that reflects both a commitment to working with lawmakers, administrators and stakeholders to promote evidence-based best practice in New York’s justice systems, and a rights-based approach, recognizing the need to adopt policies and practices that best serve youth and their families, in light of the obligations that public systems owe to our children.
- We work in coalition to amplify children’s voices.
- We advocate for and support the implementation of common-sense reforms, like Raise the Age and Close to Home.
- We serve as a watch-dog, monitoring the way children are involved in the justice system, and stand ready to challenge positions, policies and practices that are inconsistent with their well-being.
Our objective is to achieve change through state and local law and policy, sustainable investments in what works, and being part of a national dialogue supporting youth justice reform.