Partnership Between State of New York and University at Albany will Promote Best Practices to Reduce Recidivism, Improve Outcomes and Enhance Public Safety
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the creation of the Youth Justice Institute, a partnership between the state and the University at Albany, designed to improve services for children, teens, and young adults in New York’s criminal justice system. The Institute will train public and private youth service providers so they can put into place best practices and programs proven to improve outcomes for at-risk youth.
“Too many youth end up trapped in our criminal justice system and, absent resources and opportunity, are doomed to repeat the same vicious cycle of recidivism and incarceration,” said Governor Cuomo. “By using innovative programs and proven methods to train those who work with at-risk youth, this institute will help these youth have a better chance at success, improving their lives and increasing public safety in the process. Our administration is committed to opening the door to more opportunities for the next generation and building a safer, stronger New York for all.”
The State Division of Criminal Justice Services, and Office of Children and Family Services partnered to develop the Institute, which is based at the University at Albany’s School of Criminal Justice and dedicated to improving services for children, adolescents and young adults. The School of Criminal Justice will hire an executive director to lead the Institute, which will be overseen by a seven-member executive committee chaired by the commissioners of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Office of Children and Family Services.
Among its functions, the Institute will provide training and technical assistance to organizations implementing or developing youth justice programs, while serving as an information resource for the best evidence-based practices in the youth justice field. The Institute will also help evaluate youth justice programs, practices and policies, so that organizations relying on its training can gauge the effectiveness of their programs. In addition, the Institute will include a research component to improve the practice of youth justice across the state and inform youth justice policy.
Research has demonstrated that institutional confinement grounded in purely punitive principles has little effect on, and in some cases, may even increase youth recidivism. Studies also have shown that confinement, absent therapeutic and developmentally appropriate programs, can contribute to the development of further delinquent skills and attitudes by youths.
The creation of the Institute is another milestone in New York State’s effort under Governor Cuomo’s leadership to further improve the state’s criminal and youth justice systems. After the Legislature failed to enact legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York State to 18 years of age, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 150, which established a correctional facility exclusively for youth within the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. He also directed the Office of Children and Family Services, now in collaboration with the Institute, to advise the Department on the best practices, age appropriate programming, and treatment for those 16 and 17 year olds housed at the designated youth facility at Hudson Correctional Facility. In the absence of legislation, New York – along with North Carolina – remain the only states in the nation that prosecute 16 and 17 year-olds as adults.
The Youth Justice Institute is modeled after the Tow Youth Justice Institute at the University of New Haven’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, created in 2014. New York State’s Youth Justice Institute will feature an Executive Committee with representatives from the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, the state Office of Court Administration, the University at Albany, and chaired by the commissioners of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Office of Children and Family Services. The Institute’s executive director is anticipated to be hired by early 2017.
The Division of Criminal Justice Services provides staff to the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, which administers federal juvenile justice funds provided to New York State, among other responsibilities. The Juvenile Justice Advisory Group allocated $1.1 million in federal funds over the next two years to establish the Institute. Once hired, the Institute’s executive director also will be responsible for obtaining additional grant funding for the Institute’s operation.
Division of Criminal Justice Services Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, “The Institute is another example of New York State’s commitment to providing local partners with resources, training and technical assistance to help them improve the quality of their services. Agencies and organizations will learn from the successes of others and receive support to implement programs and practices with a documented history of keeping young offenders out of jail and on the path to success.”
William Pridemore, Dean of the UAlbany School of Criminal Justice, said, “How society responds to its at-risk youth and their families reflects its true values. This partnership between DCJS, OCFS, and our School represents New York State’s willingness to invest in its future. Professor Megan Kurlychek, who will be the lead collaborator from the School of Criminal Justice, has substantial experience evaluating youth programs. The new team of scholars and practitioners at the Institute will carry out world class research and translate evidence into practice by delivering skilled training and technical assistance to youth justice service providers throughout the state.”
Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila Poole said, “OCFS is proud to be part of this innovative and visionary initiative to improve outcomes for children, youth, families and communities. The Institute will help our local partners develop solutions to complex problems and apply them on a larger scale as part of New York State’s ongoing juvenile justice reform efforts.”
UAlbany Interim President James R. Stellar said, “Youths who become involved in the Family Court or criminal justice system are among our most vulnerable. We are gratified to partner with the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Office of Children and Family Services to coordinate training, research and the expertise of our leading School of Criminal Justice with the state's youth justice programs to help move these young offenders from lives on a downward trajectory to lives of hope.”
The Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the states DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.
The Office of Children and Family Services (www.ocfs.ny.gov) serves New York by promoting the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, families, and communities.
The University at Albany (www.albany.edu) offers 120 undergraduate majors and minors and more than 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. The School of Criminal Justice examines political, economic and cultural patterns that shape definitions of crime and influence the policy choices about how to respond to certain categories of crime.