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April 2016 Grants News

Young Lives in the Balance

Reforming juvenile justice for the long haul 

BEHIND BARS: Stefan Vaubel, a teen artist, depicts the juvenile justice system in his illustration (left). Courtesy of Youth Communication.

For years, New York State’s juvenile justice system resembled a boot camp for criminals. City teens who jumped turnstiles or got caught with marijuana were sent to upstate juvenile prisons. Eighty percent were rearrested within three years of release. Even now, New York is one of only two states that prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. 

With an investment of $2.7 million over the past 15 years, we’ve helped reform juvenile justice in New York. In 2001, The Trust commissioned a report by the Correctional Association that halted a major expansion of the City’s detention system, spurring officials to create alternatives to prison. Our grants then helped expand these programs to help troubled teens stay in school and manage their anger. These programs led to fewer rearrests, saving taxpayers’ money.

In 2011, we backed a campaign that won $80 million for alternative programs across the State. We also helped advocates pass Close to Home legislation that has brought hundreds of kids back from upstate prisons to alternative programs in the City that provide education, mental health, and substance-abuse services.

We all still have important work to do. With our $200,000 grant, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York will encourage the State Legislature to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18, so troubled teens can get a second chance. 

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