'Transformative Moment' in Juvenile Justice Focus of Forum
A standing-room only crowd of nearly 300 enthusiastic juvenile justice
leaders, stakeholders, advocates and professionals crowded into the Center for
New York City Forum on Feb.12th to participate in a panel discussion about the
current "transformative moment" and gathering momentum to overhaul the
City and State's Juvenile Justice systems. The three main speakers were John B.
Mattingly, Commissioner of Children's Services and the Department of Juvenile
Justice; Vincent Schiraldi, the new NYC Department of Probation Commissioner,
and Gladys Carrion, Commissioner of the NY State Office of Children and Family
Services. Jeremy Travis, the President of John Jay College and Jeremy Kohomban,
Executive Director of Children's Village, were also on the panel sponsored by
the Center for New York City Affairs at Milano the New School for Management and
"Young people and families can be helped to do better in their communities,"
Commissioner Mattingly said, stressing the City's intention to provide more
alternatives to detention and placement opportunities following the merger of
Children's Services and the City's Department of Juvenile Justice. "They
don't need to be driven deeper into the system to get help." While explaining
that "we take very seriously our responsibility to protect communities" from
youth who have exhibited criminal behavior, the Commissioner said he intended to
establish the key commitments that these young people "belong somewhere - to
family, neighborhood, faith, City…won't come out hurt…and will feel better about
themselves and their future."
Commissioner Mattingly emphasized that the changes in juvenile justice and
the agency's efforts to strengthen the child welfare system would take time and
cost money - and would depend as well on the critical support of the State
Legislature. "But in four years, we will look very different. We will have
results." He explained that the City had already been working for the past eight
years to decrease the number of young people who are incarcerated, the length of
time in incarceration, and a decrease in the number of re-arrests. Asking for
support and prayers from the stakeholders, Mattingly said: "Stick with us."
Commissioner Schiraldi, who recently assumed his position in NYC after four
years as Director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services in
Washington, D.C., called most juvenile correctional facilities "factories for
crime" and said most stakeholders "wouldn't expose their own children" to the
institutions where young people are currently sent in New York State and around
the country. While the trend nationally has been a decrease in the number of
young people who are incarcerated, Schiraldi pointed out that a critical issue
has been that all too often - as in New York State - the funds saved by
decreasing placement have not been re-directed to the cities for alternatives to
placement. As a result, the decrease in care days has meant increased costs to
NYC, not less. "We have to seal the deal on state realignment of money.
We've taken the kids out of the state system, but the state is charging us more.
We need bipartisan, statewide support to redistribute the money."
Saying the "stars are aligned" for change, Commissioner Carrion declared:
"We've firmly established that it's a broken system. But there is political will
now to change, and we are all working in partnership." For too long, she said,
"we were incarcerating too many children who posed little threat at great cost
to the public, far away from their families and communities. We can do