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DJJ's Capacity Issues

When the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was created, it was charged with overseeing detention leading an effort to build new Secure Detention facilities to replace Spofford Juvenile Center. At the time, however, there was no funding available for the project. New York City was in the throes of its worst fiscal crisis, and there was little money available for large-scale construction. Work on new facilities did not begin until 1988.

Under the direction of then DJJ Commissioner, Tino Hernandez, the Horizon and Crossroads Juvenile Centers opened in 1998. The facilities allowed the Agency to offer a different sort of custody. Spofford's cinderblocks walls and hallways were replaced with less institutional Sheetrock and natural light. Barred glass windows were replaced by unbreakable plastic which gave the facilities a less punitive atmosphere. In addition, the new facilities were smaller. As planned, the combined capacity of Horizon and Crossroads was 248 beds (124 per facility), compared to a 289 bed capacity at Spofford.

A long-term population increase beginning in 1989 left the Agency searching for still more room for its residents. To meet the need for space, DJJ leased the Vernon C. Bain Center (VCBC) from the Department of Correction in June 1998. The Agency used that facility as a temporary Intake and Admissions Center for boys, as well as a processing facility for residents awaiting transfer to state facilities. The lease of the VCBC allowed the Department to renovate three wings of the Spofford building. In December 1999, DJJ returned to that facility, renamed Bridges Juvenile Center. Bridges currently serves as the Agency's Intake and Admissions facility for boys and girls alike, as well as a transfer point for state-ready youth.

In 1998 and 1999, DJJ also opened six Non-Secure Detention (NSD) group homes under contracts with community-based organizations, increasing its non-secure capacity. In total, DJJ now oversees 14 NSD facilities, including two directly-operated group homes; Beach Avenue Intake Facility for boys, in the Bronx, and an other intake facility on West 145th Street in Manhattan for girls.

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