STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged an annual $3 million to fund various programs aimed at reducing the number of 16- and 17-year-olds in city custody by another 20 percent over the next five years.
The initiative, announced this past week, comes as the number of Staten Island teens being admitted into the city jails has been declining.
“There are roughly half as many 16- and 17-year-olds in City custody than in 2013, and we’re investing in programs that have the potential to put even more young people on better paths toward brighter futures,” the mayor said in a prepared statement.
Between 2013 and 2014, Staten Island saw a 13 percent spike in the number of borough teens being admitted into the system, according to numbers provided by the Department of Corrections (DOC).
But since 2014, the number of Staten Island teens in jail has declined by 36 percent.
In 2014, 87 teens were admitted into city jails; in 2015, 77; in 2016, 73; and last year, a low of 55 teens were imprisoned.
The DOC said there are currently six 16- to 17-year olds from Staten Island on Rikers Island. There are a total of 108 teens from all of New York City currently at Rikers.
In the last three years, the city said there has been a 32 percent decrease citywide in admissions to juvenile detention.
The city’s recurring investment will support various initiatives, including:
- Family therapy and intensive mentoring programs judges can order teens to take part in instead of detaining them.
- Expansion of the number of in-court staff to help move teens’ cases more quickly through the court system.
- Expansion of a program that pairs teenage detainees with social workers who can help with bail payment or advocate for releasing the teens to intensive community-based programming.
“Diverting teens from the justice system means making sure they’re getting the services they need to turn their lives around and taking a holistic approach that addresses the underlying issues in their lives,” the mayor stated.
RAISE THE AGE LEGISLATION
About a year ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Raise the Age legislation to change the way New York handles the cases of 16- and 17-year-old defendants.
Prior to his legislation, New York and North Carolina were the only states which automatically processed 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in Criminal Court.
The law began diverting most teenage defendants to Family Court to stand before judges with access to social services and special training.
The legislation also requires the city to remove teenage detainees off Rikers Island by October 2018, and place them in juvenile facilities, a mandate which the city says it remains committed to.
“The Department is fully committed to moving adolescents off Rikers Island and into facilities with continued access to meaningful, age-appropriate programming that we have worked hard within our agency and with provider partners to develop,” DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann, said in a prepared statement.