Cuomo administration undermines plan to move teenagers off Rikers, city says
The plan to move teenagers off of Rikers Island and other city jails is being “imperiled” by the Cuomo administration’s lack of financial and regulatory support, the city’s top criminal justice policy advisor said Tuesday.
De Blasio administration officials want to use the state-run Ella McQueen center in Brooklyn as its intake for 16- and 17-year-olds before they are sent to other facilities in the city based on their age and risk level.
But the state has balked at even letting city officials tour the spot, said Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, in an April 17 letter to the state’s commissioners of correction and children and family services.
“The state has denied the city a site that is clearly not necessary for the state’s own use but would make a measurable difference in New York City’s ability to house all the young people in detention following Raise the Age,” she wrote.
The Cuomo administration has also failed to adjust regulations requiring the teens have their cases handled by adult criminal courts, Glazer said.
The city wants their cases overseen by the juvenile justice system. Additionally, the Cuomo administration “is failing to provide final regulations on a timeline sufficient to plan for the licensure and operation of specialized secure detention facilities.”
A Cuomo administration official said the state is doing everything possible to implement the plan.
“This letter is both a stunning misrepresentation of the state’s efforts to implement this landmark legislation and evidence of the city’s utter failure to prepare for Raise the Age,” said Monica Mahaffey, a spokeswoman for the state’s Office of Children and Family Services.
“Not only is it completely disingenuous for a jurisdiction with a $8 billion surplus to suggest it somehow lacks the resources to implement this initiative, but housing 14- and 15-year-olds arrested on misdemeanor charges with 17-year-old violent offenders is unsafe and also impedes their rehabilitation,” she added.
The de Blasio administration has set aside $55 million to update and expand two detention centers already in use. They are Crossroads in the Brownsville section of the Brooklyn and Horizon in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx.
After years of lobbying from inmate advocates, state lawmakers passed the Raise the Age measure last year. Under that legislation, the city is required to move teen detainees off of Rikers Island and other city jails by October 2018.
On Tuesday, City Councilman Rory Lancman, who heads the Committee on the Justice System, said it appears like the de Blasio administration is looking to blame the state for expected delays.
“It sounds like the mayor is setting up a scenario to blame the state for the city’s failure to properly implement Raise the Age,” he said, noting the letter was sent a day before a scheduled hearing on the progress of the plan.