New York City’s “Project Zero,” which seeks rehabilitation alternatives to jail for young offenders, is a finalist for the Annie E. Casey Innovations Award in Children and Family System Reform, says City Limits.org. City Probation Commissioner Martin Horn started the program in 2003, with “zero” standing for the goal of sending no kids to juvenile correctional facilities outside the city. Instead, they would return home to live with their families, attend school as usual, and participate in intensive therapy sessions aimed at helping them get on the right path from inside their own neighborhoods.
In the year before Project Zero, up to 1,500 New York City youths were sent to juvenile facilities. In 2004, the number dropped to 1,257, and last year it was 795. From 2002 to 2007, the number of city youth incarcerated as a result of a Family Court judgment decreased by 27 percent. The probation department said the decline was caused by the Project Zero initiative. “The administration of juvenile justice in our country is marked by an absence of coherent leadership and is essentially unmanaged. Project Zero represents our resolve to take advantage of that vacuum and change the paradigm in New York from the bottom up,” Horn says.