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The Creation of DJJ

In 1978, the New York State Legislature passed the Juvenile Offender Act. Previously, all young offenders were treated as Juvenile Delinquents (JDs). But the 1978 legislation created a new category, the Juvenile Offender (JO), who, while charged as an adult, had to be housed with juveniles. In this environment, the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was created as a means of providing youth with a chance to reform themselves, while concurrently holding them accountable for their actions.

When DJJ was created and given responsibility for the juveniles in detention, the Agency was allowed a Commissioner and up to two Deputy Commissioners. Managerial responsibilities were divided into three categories: the operation of Spofford, Non-Secure Detention (NSD), and administration (which included community-based programs). The Director of Spofford managed the facility on a daily basis. The Administration division was responsible for the Agency's budget, financial and programmatic planning, and, eventually, Community Based-Interventions (CBI). The Director of NSD was responsible for the Beach Avenue Group Home and oversight of independently contracted community-based homes.

The fledgling agency was immediately confronted with two sets of issues which cast Spofford in a negative public light: childcare and facility needs. To enhance its image, the Agency's first Commissioner, Paul Strasburg, made safety for the public, the staff, and the residents, a priority. At the same time, the Agency embraced detention as an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people, an affirmation of juvenile justice's reform roots. Emphasis was placed on education, medical services and managing the dormitory living areas. Residents began to receive educational assessments and DJJ began operating its own state approved school, the Carter G. Woodson Academy.

Administrative improvements, however, could not stem the tide of Spofford's physical deterioration. Its' size, remote location, long narrow hallways, and lack of adequate lighting, remained a source of criticism. Moreover, the facility's reputation for trouble was hard to overcome; people expected the worst of Spofford. As a result, replacing it with smaller, less institutional facilities, in a more accessible location, became an immediate priority.

Commissioners of DJJ

DJJ's First Commissioner Paul Strasburg
DJJ's First Commissioner
Paul Strasburg July 1, 1979-1982
Ellen Schall- 1983-1989 Rose Washington 1989-1994
Ellen Schall
Rose Washington 1989-1994
José Maldonado- 1994-1996 Marta Moczó-Santiago- 1996-1997
José Maldonado 1994-1996 Marta Moczó-Santiago
Tino Hernandez- 1998-2001 Fredrick J. Patrick 2001-2002
Tino Hernandez 1998-2001 Fredrick J. Patrick

Neil Hernandez
2002 - 2010

< 1957-1978
Related Links
NYC Family Court
NYS Office of Children and Family Services
Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention
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