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Staff use of force against teens held at juvenile detention centers is growing more frequent, city officials said Tuesday as they came under fire for a rocky start to a law designed to protect kids who are arrested.
City Council members and juvenile justice advocates pointed to young detainees enduring everything from marathon waits for arraignments to being cuffed to police station benches during a hearing examining how the state’s new Raise the Age law is going.
City officials revealed that incidents of force used against detainees at the Horizon Juvenile Center in The Bronx climbed to 181 between July and September, compared to 133 the previous quarter.
And use-of-force reports at the Crossroads Juvenile Center in Brooklyn rose to 357, up from 247.
Cracking Down on Kids
“I look at this and like, well, this is an institution where they’re roughly cracking down on the youth there to maintain order,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman (D-Queens).
He spoke at the Council hearing where lawmakers grilled officials — representing the Administration for Children’s Services, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the Department of Correction — on implementation of the law designed to take most 16- and 17-year-olds out of the adult court system.
Raise the Age is supposed to steer kids towards social services rather than incarceration, in a system specially trained to deal with young people.
But Council members and juvenile justice advocates pointed to instances where, they said, children are being treated worse than adult offenders. In testimony, questions and a Council report, they cited THE CITY’s recent reporting on juvenile justice woes.
Among the issues raised:
• Lengthy waits for arraignment. Public defenders said teens in Brooklyn wait for up to 72 hours to see a Family Court judge, while it can take 24 hours in The Bronx. In many cases, they said, children are chained to benches at police station houses before being taken to court.
• Rates of force used against teens held at Horizon already are far higher than when children were relegated to adult jails on Rikers Island.
• A lack of private spaces for teens to speak with their lawyers in court.
• The extended presence of Department of Correction officers at Horizon, which is supposed to be staffed by workers for the city Administration for Children’s Services.
• Some kids are still being arraigned in night court, rather than in the justice system’s youth part. “Isn’t this counterintuitive of what Raise the Age is supposed to be doing?” asked Councilmember Debi Rose (D-Staten Island).
The hearing came just over two months after the Raise the Age law was extended to 17-year-olds, raising concerns that the already shaky new youth justice system would be overwhelmed by additional teens.
The city officials defended their handling of the new law.
Jordan Stockdale, with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, said the latest NYPD data showed that young people went from arrest to arraignment more quickly than adults in October and November.
“There are outliers,” Stockdale conceded, ”and we are analyzing common trends to further reduce the time youth are held pre-arraignment. And so this is an issue the city thinks is important.”
As for the rise in use of force against kids at Horizon and Crossroads, Charles Parkins, deputy associate commissioner for detention services at ACS, blamed it on a “a small percentage of youth who have some significant challenges and require additional attention.”
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