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March 16, 2021 – Members of the Raise the Age NY Coalition are disappointed that the Senate and Assembly One House budget eliminate proposals for the swift closure of 4 juvenile placement facilities. While the legislature recognized the need for community-based supports and restored proposed cuts to programs that reduce children and families’ contacts with the youth justice and child welfare systems, it failed to commit to reducing the State’s wasteful investment in youth incarceration. We call on the legislature to work with the governor to reach consensus on closing these 4 State-operated youth justice facilities during FY2022 and reinvesting these funds in communities.
Institutional settings can pose significant risk to young people’s well-being, and have been shown to neither reduce future contact with the system nor promote community safety. Because of the success of Raise the Age reforms across New York, we do not need these youth justice facilities. New York has reduced youth incarceration by providing more crucial supports and services for young people and their families in their communities. We are ready to close these facilities now and continue to reduce youth incarceration by investing even more in community-based solutions that work.
We spend nearly $900,000 per child, per year on youth justice placements in New York. The cost is shockingly high partly because the State pays for unused beds that are no longer needed. Retaining these beds wastes millions in this year’s budget – estimated at over $21 million in operational and $14 million in capital costs – that could be spent on education, housing, mental health, youth programming, and other services that would further reduce justice system involvement. Now is the time to divest from these 4 facilities. We look forward to working with the legislature and the governor’s office to move with urgency and get this done.