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Press Release
March 31, 2011

ACS Joins with Juvenile Justice Leaders Citywide to Announce the Closing of Bridges Juvenile Center

New York, NY – The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) on March 30, 2011 announced the closing of Bridges Juvenile Center, an outdated secure detention facility for young people awaiting adjudication in the Family Court.  This is an important milestone in the City’s juvenile justice reform efforts.

Up to now these reforms have included strengthening assessments for court-involved youth according to their level of risk to public safety, and developing evidence-based, cost-effective alternatives to detention when that is most appropriate.  The City has also worked throughout the past five years to develop a continuum of alternative programs for delinquent youth who are currently being sent to distant, costly, and ineffective institutions run upstate by the State of New York.

“The closing of Bridges is a tremendous accomplishment for the City of New York,” said ACS Commissioner John B. Mattingly.  “We owe a great debt of gratitude to our many partners who have helped us to create effective alternatives to detention so that we could reach this historic moment.  We are also grateful for the support of the City Council, and Juvenile Justice Chair Sara M. , for their efforts throughout the years promoting juvenile justice initiatives.”

“New York City has made a commitment to advance public safety and to better serve youth who pass through the juvenile justice system,” said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. “Closing the Bridges Juvenile Justice facility is an important step in our efforts as we bring our successful juvenile justice reforms to the next level.” 

ACS Commissioner John B. Mattingly and Laurence E. Busching, Executive Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Youth and Family Justice, were joined by leaders from throughout the City’s juvenile justice system to mark this historic event, including Family Court Chief Administrative Judge Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, Probation Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi, Council Member Sara M. González, Chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee, and Council Member Annabel Palma, Chair of the General Welfare Committee. 

“Through our collective efforts, we are seeing more youth receiving effective help and intervention with their families and in their communities,” said Executive Deputy Commissioner Laurence Busching.  “This will help us to better protect our neighborhoods by taking some young people off the track leading to adult crime.”

“The closure of Bridges is the direct result of a successful effort on the part of City agencies and non-profit organizations to create a continuum of alternative-to-placement programs,” said NYC Department of Probation Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi.  “Now judges have choices – instead of sending low-risk youth to detention facilities, they are sending them to community-based programs that are both more effective and less expensive.  Whether you look at it in terms of public safety, fiscal responsibility or youth development, community-based programming is clearly the way to go.”

The City Council, under the leadership of Juvenile Justice Committee Chair Sara M. González and General Welfare Committee Chair Annabel Palma, passed legislation in November 2010 merging the Department of Juvenile Justice into ACS.  The collaboration of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems led to the creation of the Division of Youth and Family Justice at Children’s Services, which oversees the City’s detention operations and coordinates comprehensive services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system while maintaining a commitment to public safety.  The Council has a history of advocating for this and other juvenile justice reforms in New York City.

“I have been a staunch advocate for this facility’s closure since I became chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee in 2003 and late is certainly better than never,” said Council Member Sara M. González.  “The closure of Spofford will result in a decrease in the use of detention by the City and will permit youth who otherwise might have been detained to remain in their communities and be placed in alternative programs that are much more effective and less expensive than secure detention.  I thank Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn, Councilwoman Palma, Councilman Fidler and Commissioner Mattingly and Deputy Commissioner Busching of ACS for their partnership and dedication to the well-being of New York City’s children.”

“I would like to applaud Commissioner Mattingly and the Administration for their sensible approach to realigning the juvenile justice system and their commitment to reform,” said Council Member Annabel Palma, Chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee.  “The closure of this facility signifies a new beginning for juvenile justice services in New York City, one in which our city’s youth will be given better access to the comprehensive care they need and deserve.  I firmly believe that our city will be a better and safer place as a result.”

The City’s successful reform initiatives include the creation of a risk assessment instrument, which gives stakeholders scientifically validated information about the risk level of individual youth to inform detention decisions and the implementation of several well-regarded community-based alternatives–to-detention and alternatives to placement for juveniles.  Building upon these successful reforms, the City launched a series of strategies last spring designed to better target the use of detention and reduce the need to hold young people in secure settings.  The strategies include several new alternatives-to-detention options in the City’s continuum of services for court-involved youth.  These initiatives are being managed by ACS’s new Division of Youth and Family Justice in partnership with the Department of Probation, the Criminal Justice Coordinator and a variety of public and private agencies.

"Today we are not just celebrating the closing of a building,” said Administrative Judge for NYC Family Court Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson.”  We are celebrating increased options for youth and important tools helping Judges to make the critical decisions that we make each day. These reforms are critical to our ability to address the needs of young people who appear before us while simultaneously serving the needs of our communities."

"We join the Mayor and ACS in applauding the closure of Bridges," noted Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo of the New York City Law Department, whose office is responsible for prosecuting juvenile delinquency cases.  "The need for juvenile facilities has declined because the City has developed both better tools to determine which juveniles are at-risk and more innovative alternatives to detention.  Bridges is an outmoded facility, and the City can better meet the needs of juveniles through the continued use of two more modern facilities." 

Through careful implementation of strategies that supervise and support youth in community-based programs, detention populations have been sufficiently reduced to permit the closure of the Bridges detention facility.  These strategies have been implemented as New York City has taken critical steps forward in juvenile justice reform resulting in a significant reduction in the use of detention.  From 2006 to 2008, New York City achieved a 22% reduction in detention at arraignment as well as a 35% reduction in recidivism.  Since 2008, we have continued to make further gains in reducing our detention census.  In Fiscal Year 2010, detention admissions were reduced by 8% and the average daily population in detention was reduced by 10%.

"We commend New York City for making good on a long-overdue promise to close Spofford,” said Reverend Ruben Austria, Executive Director of Community Connections for Youth.  “For too long it's been a monstrosity in our community and we urge this administration to take the necessary steps to make sure it is never again used to incarcerate children."

“As someone who has spent many years working with youth in detention, I am deeply gratified to see Bridges close,” said Reverend Alfonso Wyatt, Vice President of the Fund for the City of New York.  “This event represents another stride towards creating the type of system that helps rehabilitate, rather than just incarcerate.”

Bridges, the former Spofford, was opened in 1957.  The facility served as an Intake/Admissions facility for youth who were admitted to detention until their orientation period was completed and for youth awaiting transport to New York State Office of Children’s and Family Services (OCFS) placements.

Michael Fagan / Elysia Murphy 212-341-0999


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