Youth Justice, Police and NYC’s Neighborhoods

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2014 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM THERESA LANG COMMUNITY AND STUDENT CENTER, ARNHOLD HALL 55 WEST 13TH STREET, 2ND FLOOR [Photo by Andrew Hinderaker]Center for New York City Affairs at The New School presentsa Child Welfare Watch forum Co-sponsored by the New York Juvenile Justice Initiative

There’s been a sea change in New York City juvenile justice policy and police practices over the last two years: Courts now place most teen delinquents in city programs close to home, rather than upstate; and police have sharply reduced the use of stop and frisk, a tactic that overwhelmingly targeted young men of color. Policymakers in the new administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio seek to drive change even further, to improve police-community relations and strengthen juvenile justice programs while also securing public safety. How does the administration intend to pursue its objectives? What do community leaders and others believe needs to change? Will young people and community residents gain a meaningful voice in both policy and practice? And can better data collection and data sharing help shape new solutions, both inside and outside the walls of government?

A conversation with:

  • Gladys Carrion, commissioner, NYC Administration for Children's Services
  • Joanne Jaffe, bureau chief, New York Police Department
  • Chino Hardin, field trainer/organizer, Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions
  • Gabrielle Prisco, director, Juvenile Justice Project, Correctional Association of New York
  • Chris Watler, project director, Harlem Community Justice Center at Center for Court Innovation

Moderated by:

  • Andrew White, director, Center for New York City Affairs, The New School

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THUUJEtPcQQ&feature=youtu.be

 

This forum is made possible thanks to the generous support of The Prospect Hill Foundation and the Sirus Fund.  Additional funding for the Child Welfare Watch project is provided by the Child Welfare Fund, the Ira W. DeCamp Foundation and the Booth Ferris Foundation.

For Years, Half of all NYPD Trespass Stops Were in Public Housing

People in New York City public housing are subject to more than double their share of police stops, according to government data recently filed in a class action lawsuit over police practices in public housing. Tenants of the New York City Housing Authority make up about five percent of the city’s population. In each of the past seven years, between 11 and 15 percent of all police stops were made on public housing properties. The disparities are even greater when it comes to stops made on suspicion of trespassing: In each of the four years from 2006 through 2009, public housing accounted for half of all the trespassing stops made in the city.

The trespassing lawsuit is being heard in a Manhattan federal court. A similar suit has already gone to trial over trespassing stops in private buildings whose landlords allow police greater access than usual under the ‘Clean Halls’ program. Police are authorized to question people in common areas like lobbies and stairwells—essentially bringing the practice of stop-and-frisk indoors. The plaintiffs argue that stops are so frequent that police effectively run pedestrian checkpoints on public housing grounds.

Kis Ravelin, a 23-year-old resident of the Washington Houses in East Harlem who was arrested for trespassing after being stopped in the lobby of his own building, tells Child Welfare Watch that he assumes he’s subject to suspicion every time he sees a police officer in his development. “It makes you feel like an experiment gone rogue,” he says. “Like they’re waiting for you to go haywire.” His case was promptly dismissed by the court, but not until he’d spent a night in jail. Ravelin was interviewed as part of a six-month Child Welfare Watch investigation of police relationships with NYCHA tenants, focusing on both young people and older residents; the report will be published in the upcoming Fall 2012 issue of the Watch.

The NYPD defends trespass stops as an indispensable tool for preventing violent crime in public housing. The overall rate of reported crime is 30 percent higher in NYCHA developments than in the rest of the city, according to police data. Rates of violent crime are nearly twice as high, and drug crime rates are four times higher. In one NYCHA-issued survey, nearly half of respondents said they were afraid to leave their own apartments because of crime.

Aida Melendez, 61, has lived in the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem all her life and serves on her building’s Resident Watch. At night, she says, “if you don’t know how to tuck and roll, you better not be outside.”

But higher crime rates don’t directly account for the elevated number of police stops on public housing properties, according to an analysis by Jeffrey Fagan, a Columbia University law professor hired by plaintiffs to analyze crime and enforcement data.

Even controlling for crime rates, socioeconomic conditions and the volume of police presence, Fagan found that people on public housing grounds are close to four times likelier to be stopped on suspicion of trespassing than people in immediately surrounding neighborhoods.

Some policing experts argue that such aggressive, targeted enforcement can make crime more intractable in vulnerable communities, because it undermines police officers’ ability to collaborate with residents. “Good police work involves building relationships with people in communities. They’re the ones who know where crime is happening and who’s committing it,” says Paul Butler, a Georgetown University professor and former prosecutor for the federal Department of Justice. “The police need friends. They’re making enemies.”

The city’s policing numbers point to a reality more complicated than either side would contend. Following negotiations with tenant leaders in 2009, the rate of trespassing stops on public housing grounds dropped by nearly 60 percent. Last year, public housing accounted for just under a third of the city’s total trespassing stops—still an outsized proportion, but a significant decrease from the 50 percent it represented in preceding years.

There’s no evidence that cutting down on trespass stops tied the police department’s hands when it came to enforcement. During the same period, the total number of arrests on public housing properties barely declined at all.

 

 

A Clearer View of Bloomberg's 'Close to Home' Plan

It's been more than a year since Mayor Bloomberg announced that he wanted to pull New York City kids out of state-run juvenile justice facilities, sending them instead to a new system of programs and lockups controlled by the city. Until recently, details of the city's plan have been scarce: What would the city's system look like? Who would operate it? And how would it be better than the state-run system, with its decades of scandal and notoriously high rates of recidivism?

The details are now public, spelled out in a 100-page draft plan released earlier this month by the Administration for Children's Services (ACS). For larger context on the city's reform agenda, see our previous story here. What follows is a summary of critical details from the draft plan, which is open to public comment.

Under the existing system, the city has jurisdiction over children who've been arrested, while their court cases are pending. But after a child is sentenced to serve time, he or she is sent to the custody of the state government, which runs its own juvenile lockups and also oversees a network of residential campuses operated by nonprofit organizations, including some in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island that have historically cared for New York City foster children.

This year's state budget includes funding for the new approach, which will allow New York City to open its own facilities for kids who are sent by judges to so-called nonsecure, and limited secure, lockups. Those titles are misleading: The facilities are, in fact, secured by both staff and hardware, and kids are not allowed to leave on their own. Nonetheless, they generally house children who've committed less serious or fewer offenses than those placed in so-called secure, facilities, which are more restrictive and will continue to be operated by the state, at least for now.

The city wants to have new nonsecure residential centers up and running by September of this year. They will be run by nonprofit organizations, including those who have long experience with foster care residential treatment centers and others that have worked with juvenile delinquents sent to them by Family Court judges.

The city's first step is to submit a plan to the state's Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). The plan must incorporate public feedback; ACS will hold two public hearings in May, and is accepting comments on its plan by email at closetohome@acs.nyc.gov.

Following is a summary of key elements of the city's draft plan:

New lockups

In January, ACS invited nonprofit organizations to apply for contracts to operate new facilities, which will essentially look like locked group homes. The administration is now in the process of scoring proposals from several nonprofit groups, and officials say they will announce awards by or in May.

Some organizations seeking to participate already own residential campuses in suburban counties surrounding the city. Initially, the nonprofits ACS selects will be allowed to operate their programs as far as 25 miles outside of city lines. Within two years, however, they will have to relocate to sites within the five boroughs, so that kids can have closer contact with their families.

While the Close to Home plan says the city will work to avoid over-reliance on out-of-home placements,, there is no built-in assumption that the number of kids sent to nonsecure facilities will decline. ACS says it will contract for 300 beds, the same number as are now filled by New York City youth in the state's nonsecure lockups.

This number reflects a significant drop from six years ago, however, thanks to several city initiatives designed to divert young teens from lockups altogether: Since 2005, the total number of New York City young people sent to state-run and state-contracted facilities has gone down by close to two-thirds, from nearly 1,500 to 544 last year.

If the plan is approved, facilities will open on September 1, 2012. All city youth given new, nonsecure placements by Family Court judges will go directly to the city lockups. Between September and December, ACS caseworkers will work with the state to transfer youth already in state custody, either into the new city facilities or into city-run aftercare, programs, which provide support services to young people and their families after they return home.

What happens when they don't work

Under the current state system, a large number of young people fail, out of private, nonprofit-run facilities and are transferred into state-run lockups. Last year, nearly one-third of children placed in state-run, nonsecure lockups had arrived there from private programs. Since the city will not directly operate its own nonsecure facilities, the only option for kids who don't succeed in private programs in the new system will be a transfer to a more restrictive level of lockup.

In its draft Close to Home plan, the city says it hopes to minimize such failed placements, by creating specialized program slots for children with particular needs or behaviors, such as kids with severe emotional disturbances or fire-setting histories. The plan stipulates that ACS social workers will meet with young people and their families before they assign kids to a particular program. Program providers will be able to appeal decisions if the provider thinks an inappropriate match, was made by ACS.

Young people who are deemed to be in imminent danger of leaving without permission,, or who present as a threat to themselves or others, will be transferred immediately to one of the city's secure detention facilities (which currently hold children whose trials are in progress) until a longer-term decision is made.

Restraints and physical force

The city's nonsecure facility operators will be trained in a system called Safe Crisis Management,, which stipulates that program staff must attempt to de-escalate crisis situations without using force whenever possible, and always use the least intrusive or restrictive intervention necessary. Physical restraints are permitted only as a last resort.

This represents a departure from practices in the city's detention facilities, where staff used physical or mechanical restraints more than 1,000 times in the last three months of 2011, according to ACS's quarterly incident report, which it is required to publish under city law. Children in custody were injured as a result of these restraints 78 times during that period.

When providers at the new nonsecure lockups use restraints, they will be required to notify ACS within an hour of the incident, according to the Close to Home plan. ACS will factor the use of restraints into evaluations of provider agencies. ACS case managers will meet with children who've been restrained soon after the incident, and will report restraints to children's families.

Alternative programs

In the draft plan, the city describes a newly expanded continuum of services, for young people in the juvenile justice system, with new programs designed to keep kids out of placement facilities. Historically, New York City's rates of juvenile incarceration stayed high, in part, because Family Court judges didn't have alternative programs to send kids to when they got in trouble. Over the past several years, ACS and the city's Department of Probation have established several alternative to placement, programs, where kids get supervision and services while living at home.

Under Close to Home, the probation department will open three new alternative programs, adding 65 new slots. It will also run a tiered system of probation, so that judges can assign kids to varying levels of scrutiny, including daily check-ins, without removing them from their homes.

According to the Close to Home plan, ACS is currently soliciting more slots for a short-term foster care program designed to keep kids with violent offenses out of lockups. And it is gearing up to expand its system of aftercare programs, which aim to keep kids from committing new offenses.

Reducing bias

One of the Bloomberg administration's signature juvenile justice reforms was the development of a risk assessment instrument,, or RAI, which gauges a young person's likelihood of either re-offending or disappearing while his or her case is pending. After an arrest, based on certain characteristics, young people are scored low-, medium- or high-risk. For those on the low end, the Department of Probation recommends that judges let them stay home, rather than sending them to detention. In part as a result of this assessment tool, detention admissions went down by 18 percent between 2006 and 2011.

The probation department is now working with the Vera Institute of Justice to develop similar tools to take bias out of placement recommendations,which help judges decide whether a child will be sent to a diversion program or to a lockup, and what level of security that lockup should be. Standardizing the process assures that recommendations of placement are not based on the youth's treatment needs, attitudes or behavior while in court or with the probation officer, all of which are factors that can sometimes cause low-risk youth to receive more intensive services than are warranted,, according to the plan. Assessment tools also aim to minimize racial disparities in sentencing.

Oversight

In the process of arguing for this local system, officials have repeatedly said that keeping children close to their families and lawyers, and to the elected officials who represent them, will allow for greater oversight of juvenile lockups.

According to the Close to Home plan, ACS will monitor the nonprofits running facilities, both through its annual scoring process and through its team of case workers working directly with program providers to track kids' progress through the system.

ACS is in turn regulated by the state, which holds the power to grant licenses to the service-providing agencies that will run the lockups. ACS will be obliged to report serious incidents to the state, such as severe injuries to children or suspected child abuse, and the state has the ultimate authority to shut the city's placement system down.

The city publishes certain data tracking the outcomes of its current juvenile justice programs, such as re-arrest rates and average lengths of stay, in the annual Mayor's Management Report and ACS's monthly Flash indicators. Under a law passed by the City Council, ACS is also required to post a quarterly incident report documenting restraints and injuries to youth in detention centers, an annual demographic report and an annual report of child abuse allegations.

The Close to Home plan does not explain what data will be publicly available about its new lockups, though it does say that [t]he city expects that throughout implementation and execution of Close to Home, we will be called upon to update the City Council, as well as key members of the State Assembly and Senate, including the Committees on Children and Family Services.,

The plan also anticipates regular and formal input from stakeholders and consumers of non-secure placement services (judges, lawyers, families, etc.), but does not explain how that input will be institutionalized.

Money

The annual cost of the city's nonsecure lockups is expected to be $56.8 million, with half to come from the city, and half to be paid for by the state. Of the state money, more than $12 million will come from the Foster Care Block Grant, which currently funds services for children and families in the foster care system.

Providers will receive an initial base rate of $400 per child day, based on the assumption that 90 percent of their slots will remain occupied, plus add-on rates for extra services like paying staff to accompany children to school.

City Youth and the NYPD

Amid the flood of analysis that followed the NYPD's release of data on its use of "stop, question and frisk" policing tactics, researchers recently released a survey showing widespread mistrust of police among 1,100 New Yorkers between the ages of 14 and 21. NYPD photo courtesy of Stephane Bazart Photography/flickrCCThe survey was conducted by the Polling for Justice project at the City University of New York, a collective of youth and adult researchers who developed the questions and distributed them through their own networks and those of community organizations. The participants were not as demographically representative of the city as a random sample would have been, nearly two-thirds of respondents were female and just 9 percent were white (whites accounted for 22 percent of the city's young people in the 2010 census).

Nevertheless, researchers set out to have a pool that reflected the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic differences among city public high school students and for the most part they did. Survey participants were geographically dispersed across all of the city's boroughs except for Staten Island.

Nearly half of the young people reported having negative interactions with police in the previous six months. Just 20 percent said they would feel comfortable going to the police if they needed help.

The survey data were collected in 2008 and 2009, when the NYPD used stop and frisk tactics on young people aged 14-21 more than 416,000 times, according to the CUNY researchers' analysis of NYPD data. This amounts to nearly 40 percent of all such stops.

The NYPD data show that young people were frisked in the majority (61 percent) of the stops and 1 percent of stops resulted in the discovery of a weapon. They also show that young people were stopped at an average of once every 90 minutes in high-poverty, majority black and Latino neighborhoods like East New York and Brownsville, Brooklyn, while whiter, wealthier areas averaged one stop every 18 hours.

By pairing the NYPD data with young people's accounts of their experiences, the researchers sought to document details and nuances that don't show up in the official numbers. "Young people are particularly vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of public institutions and local environments, yet they are seldom included in the discussion on what their experiences have been, what needs to change, and in what ways those changes should happen," says Brett Stoudt, a professor at CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice and one of the lead researchers on the survey.

Young people who reported negative incidents with police were likely to have experienced them multiple times over the previous six months, with more than 40 percent reporting three or more stops. Twelve percent of the survey participants reported unwanted sexual attention from the police, or that they were touched inappropriately during a search.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning youth were significantly more likely to have experienced negative interactions with police (61 percent) than young people who identified as straight (47 percent.)

Unsurprisingly, young people's perceptions of their own interactions with police corresponded with their general feelings about the NYPD. Among the survey participants who reported having only positive interactions with police, nearly 70 percent agreed with the statement that "in general, the police in NYC protect young people like me," though even that category of young people were unlikely (28 percent) to say they'd feel comfortable turning to police for help.

Among respondents who reported negative contacts with police, just 31 percent said they felt protected by police, and only 16 percent said they'd turn to police if they were in trouble.

That lack of trust may actually facilitate crime, says Stoudt, since it can limit police officers' ability to partner with community members. "We need to start considering what it means for the youth in NYC to grow up policed; to grow up as perpetual suspects because of how they look or where they live," he says.

The cycle of mistrust won't be broken until police are trained to look for individual behaviors that indicate possible criminal activities, rather than relying on contextual indicators like neighborhood or style of dress, says Delores Jones Brown, who directs the Center on Race, Crime and Justice at John Jay College. "A very small minority of young people, even in areas of high crime, are involved in serious criminal activities," she says. "Police need to learn to distinguish between those kids, in the same way as they do in white communities."

The NYPD press office did not respond to a request for comment. The Department of Probation's press office offered the following statement about the city's law enforcement strategies: "Since the early 1990s, there has been a 56 percent reduction in the number of New York City residents sent to state prison, thanks in large part to the NYPD's success in driving down murder and other serious crime. The city has also successfully reduced the number of youth who are detained in New York City or placed in upstate facilities. Both of these reductions speak to our ability to protect public safety while ensuring that all youth, including those who are most at-risk-have the opportunity to become successful members of their communities."

Photo: Stephane Bazart photography/flickrCC