The New York State juvenile detention system, where 85 percent of those incarcerated are minorities, is working to reduce racial disparity, says Gladys Carrion, New York commissioner of children and family services. Speaking to a Coalition for Juvenile Justice conference on Fundamental Fairness: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice, Carrion says data show a “disproportionate representation of minority youth at critical decision points in the juvenile justice system” in the state. “We need a juvenile justice system that values young people and doesn't write them off as throwaways and believes that the young have the capacity to change their behavior and mature,” Carrion said.
Carrion cited several reforms her administration has pursued, including eliminating status offenders in the sytem, investing in alternatives to detention, working with counties to develop risk assessment instruments, supporting home-based interventions, and introducing legislation to limit youth placement in state facilities to those who commit serious, dangerous felonies. “The re-structuring reforms in New York directly resolve much of the disproportionate minority confinement problem in the state by returning to their homes and communities youth of color from New York City who had been shipped upstate and jailed for reasons that support jobs rather than public safety,” says the coalition’s Nancy Gannon Hornberger. The group’s conference concluded yesterday in Jersey City, N.J.