New York Juvenile Justice Initiative: New Hope For The State’s Youth Offenders?
Alex Wagner, Huffington Post | May 2, 2011

NEW YORK — Public and private funds have flooded all manner of experimental education programs, from charter schools to Race to the Top initiatives.

But as America tries to ensure its children have a fighting chance in the 21st century, resources have been slow to come to one sector in particular: school-aged youth charged with criminal offenses.

Particularly in New York, one of three states in the country that charges children as adults by age 16 (rather than 17 or 18, as elsewhere), the issue of juvenile justice reform is particularly pressing. Roughly 400 students aged 15 and younger pass through the city’s juvenile justice programs daily, according to Timothy Lisante, the state’s deputy superintendent for alternative, adult and continuing education. He further estimates that every day, 800 16- to 21 year-olds pass through the state’s educational programs at the prison complex on Rikers Island.

According to a 2009 report commissioned by then-Gov. David Paterson’s office, an earlier study by the Department of Justice found that New York’s juvenile justice system was “failing in its mission to nurture and care for young people in state custody.”

Among the evidence, the report examined instances of excessive force by state employees, resulting in juveniles suffering concussions, broken bones and knocked-out teeth. This punitive discipline not only didn’t serve the juvenile population, but Justice Department investigators concluded it amounted to a violation of constitutional rights. If these issues were not addressed, the Justice Department could sue New York state. (Read more)