Young Adult Frequently Asked Questions

Young Adult Plan

Who is a Young Adult?

New York City’s Department of Correction and Board of Correction Minimum Standard §1-02 classifies Young Adults (YA) as any person in custody between the ages of eighteen (18) and twenty-one (21). 

In August 2014, the Department wrote:

By housing the young adults together, we will be able to keep them separate from the adults in our population as they work through the transition out of adolescence. There is research that shows that young people's cognitive development continues until their early- to mid-twenties; however, we think that in a jail environment, there is a significant difference between 18 year olds and 24 year olds and after much discussion, have determined to limit young adult housing to those between 18 and 21.

What is the Young Adult Plan?

In 2016, the Department of Correction put forth a plan to account for the developmental differences of the Young Adult population and their overall well-being while in custody. This plan included the following goals:

  • Removing all Young Adults from Punitive Segregation;
  • Housing Young Adults separately from adults;
  • Creating alternatives to Punitive Segregation housing;
  • Training all steady officers assigned to Young Adult housing in Safe Crisis Management;
  • Training all steady officers assigned to alternative housing units in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; and
  • Providing a minimum of 5 hours of programming per day for Young Adults in the general population.

DOC proposed an updated Young Adult plan on October 9th, 2018 and on February 5th 2019 .

How are Young Adults different from adults?

Research on the developmental differences and needs of YAs outlines that the human prefrontal cortex (the primary anatomical source of decision making) reaches full maturation at the age of 25. Outcomes associated with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex include: poor reasoning skills, impulsiveness, sensation-seeking behavior, disregard for long-term consequences, and higher risk-taking propensities. Additionally, research shows that education, workforce development, mentorship opportunities, substance abuse programs, cognitive behavioral therapy / interventions, dialectical behavioral therapy / interventions, family therapy, the use of short-term behavioral incentives, and the specific targeting of conduct disorders / antisocial behavior are beneficial for incarcerated youth. Moreover, a higher ratio of staff to incarcerated young adults, staff trained in cognitive behavioral interventions, and staff who have competency in young adult culture also positively influence young adult rehabilitation.

What are the recent updates to the YA plan?

The Department proposed new updates to the Young Adult plan at the October 9th, 2018 and February 5th 2019 Board of Correction Public Meetings. According to the updated plans, DOC began to “reimagine a young adult strategy” after noticing a spike in violence in the summer of 2016 and subsequently utilized variance requests granted by the Board to comingle Young Adults with adults. The primary goals of DOC’s updated plan are to address the needs of Young Adults and maintain safety.

Primary updates to the YA plan state that:

  • At least 50% of the 18 -21-year-old general population are housed in YA only units;
  • RNDC will become the new YA intake facility;
  • DOC will collaborate with the New York State Education Department to open two High School Equivalency Testing Centers and train DOC staff members in the administration of TASC (high school equivalency test) for persons 19 and older;
  • DOC is developing additional recreational yards for YAs;
  • YES and PEACE Centers will be moved to RNDC;
  • DOC will provide Effective Communication/Motivational Strategies (ECMS) for YA-Enhanced Supervision Housing (a restrictive housing unit) staff. The training will focus on motivational interviewing targeted to the YA population; and
  • The Programs Division is developing a plan to expand programming for YAs in the mental observation, protective custody, and other specialized units.