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Juvenile Justice in New York: a broken system in search of improvement

Posted By Charlotte Carter, NYSDRA Executive Director, Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Did you know that juveniles are treated as adults in our criminal justice system? Until April of this year New York was one of only two states (the other is North Carolina) that prosecutes all 16 and 17 year olds as adults. Our legislature finally acknowledged that adolescents are children, and that prosecuting them in the adult system does not work for them – nor does it improve public safety. This shift opens huge potential for expansion and funding for family mediation services and restorative practices.  

The keynote speaker at NYSDRA’s conference was Joseph Popcun, the Assistant Secretary for Public Safety in the Governor's office open the conference. Joes oversees the State's criminal justice, corrections and victim assistance agencies. He also contributes to the development of the Governor’s public safety agenda, maintains contact with stakeholder and constituency groups, and participates in budget negotiations.

Joe has some progressive ideas about the needs for reform in the criminal justice system, particularly in juvenile justice. Since our first meetings in 2014 he has become a champion for mediation and restorative practices, and for the CDRC network. He understands and respects the work we all do. And he is a visionary and incredibly articulate:


First, this year, the Governor succeeded in passing Raise the Age legislation which will raise the age of criminal responsibility to 17 years of age in October 2018 and, then, 18 years of age in October 2019.  Between now and then, there is a tremendous amount of work to do and the opportunity to reorient the juvenile justice system.  In the past, the criminal justice system was ill-equipped to deal with youth.  .   .   .The Raise the Age law is designed to afford more opportunities to intervene with youth before they become entangled in the adult criminal justice system.  This effort will require a comprehensive approach at the local level where schools, law enforcement agencies, probation departments, social service departments, and elected officials build the capacity to serve these minors.  .   .   .


[NYSDRA] and its members should explore ways to support the continuum of service providers and intervene (where appropriate) with youth, justice-involved individuals, and victims.  As there is a continued policy focus in these areas, expanding partnerships with these service providers (or potentially becoming a provider yourself) could provide a promising platform to expand and enhance dispute resolution services.


Joe Popcun has emerged as a champion in our outreach and advocacy efforts. Connecting emerging juvenile justice needs with the resources offered by NYSDRA and the statewide network of community mediation centers will be a focus for the coming years. Sarah Rudgers-Tysz, NYSDRA Board President Elect and Mediation Matters Executive Director; and Dan Kos, Assistant Coordinator, NYS Unified Court System, Office of ADR, are taking the lead on the Raise the Age and juvenile justice services outreach. There have been some exciting developments in our partnership building with Robert Maccarone, Deputy Commissioner and Director of DCJS, Regional Youth Justice Teams, and other agencies. We understand that DCJS will be issuing an RFP soon, and Dan and Sarah have worked very hard and effectively to be sure the principals understand the structure, capacity and needs of OCA/ADR, the CDRC network and NYSDRA.


The Raise the Age advocacy team is receiving very positive feedback, and we are excited about the prospects for our network to help meet emerging needs for statewide services including mediation, conflict coaching, school based programing, and restorative practices in juvenile justice systems.


If you are interesting is joining these efforts please contact us!


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