ABORN PROPOSES SIGNIFICANT REFORMS TO JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM.
New York Manhattan District Attorney Richard Aborn sent out this press release yesterday:
NEW YORK-Richard Aborn, candidate for Manhattan District Attorney, today unveiled an extensive proposal to make significant reforms to New York’s broken juvenile justice system. Aborn characterized the current system as problematic given high rates of recidivism and a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color, with 95 % of the city’s incarcerated youths of African American and/or Latino descent. Pledging to prioritize youth crime, Aborn said:
“We need a community-based effort to work with at-risk youths before they come into contact with the criminal justice system, and divert young offenders from committing further crimes. We need to offer struggling young people a chance-- not just a cell.”
As Manhattan District Attorney, Richard Aborn will implement proven strategies to minimize recidivism among youths who are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office and will focus on reaching at-risk youths before they enter the justice system by:
· Promoting targeted intervention programs for youths prosecuted by the District Attorney.
· Establishing an "Effectiveness Czar” to evaluate the justice system’s performance and fairness. Currently, New York City collects statistics on youths in the justice system in a disorganized manner, with separate – but sometimes overlapping – databases maintained by the Departments of Juvenile Justice, Correction, Law, and Probation as well as the Administration for Children’s Services and the New York Police Department. Because the Manhattan District Attorney works with police, courts, corrections officials, and many social service providers, the office is uniquely positioned to lead a collaborative effort to improve data collection and analysis. For instance, the new czar could investigate which crimes people of color are being prosecuted for more frequently than white people, then examine the DA's practices for prosecuting those crimes to see if they contain inadvertent biases.
· Expanding opportunities for parents and families to actively contribute during the justice process. In Santa Cruz, California, a new initiative to involve families in youth sentencing hearings has yielded positive results. Justice officials in Santa Cruz report that corrections plans developed with input from parents are more comprehensive than plans developed by the court alone, and that family-driven plans are more likely to be carried out successfully. Aborn will promote the inclusion of “family conferences” in the DA office’s sentencing process, and will advocate for treatment plans that incorporate family counseling where appropriate.
· Advocating for legal reforms that keep non-violent young offenders out of “adult” courts and prisons:
- Young people under the age of 18 should be tried in Family Court while preserving the DA’s authority to try violent and severe crimes in adult court. This change reflects the U.S. Supreme Court finding and the consensus among scientific researchers that children and adolescents lack the neurological maturity to fully understand the consequences of their actions and control their impulses. New York and North Carolina are the only states with justice systems that consider adolescents over the age of 15 to be adults.
- Family Courts have more latitude and greater access to social service resources. Currently, an overburdened family court cannot handle this additional responsibility. As an interim measure Aborn supports letting Supreme Court justices, in appropriate cases, preside as Family Court justices to use pre and post conviction options that are available to Family Court and not Supreme Court.
· Partnering with schools to educate young people and identify at-risk youths and connect them with after-school programs that offer positive alternatives to crime.
· Improving the justice system’s practices for youth mental health assessment as treatment-experts estimate that 83 % of youths in the juvenile justice system have mental health needs. As District Attorney, Aborn will establish a pilot Youth Mental Health Clinic that will address the enormous unmet need for psychological and substance abuse treatment among young people prosecuted by the D.A, and will ensure that all youths who come through the system receive adequate and early assessment of mental health treatment needs. The clinic staff will include therapists and case managers who will treat youths with psychological needs, manage the youth’s case as it moves through the system, and make sentencing recommendations. A similar clinic in Chicago has proven to be effective at streamlining communication between courts and clinicians.
Aborn emphasized that harsh policies such as trying youths as adults and imprisoning more young offenders actually make our communities less safe by increasing recidivism: nearly half of the youths who are released from the City’s juvenile detention facilities are readmitted within a year. Similarly, 80 % of juvenile offenders prosecuted in Manhattan are re-arrested for felonies within four years of their first arrest. In addition, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, minors held in adult prisons are 26 times more likely to commit suicide than youths in juvenile facilities.
"The current laws and structure of the court system deny young offenders the benefit of social welfare programs and services that could get their lives on track and prevent them from becoming career criminals. We need to stop thinking that putting a young offender in jail is the surest way to deter and prevent crime. My experiences have shown the exact opposite. We need to move away from the retributive model of justice for the betterment of our community,” said Beth Hofmeister, a vice president of the Association for Legal Aid Attorneys.
“We cannot stand for a revolving door juvenile justice system where four out of every five youths are re-arrested and the cycle of crime never ends. This system is broken, and I am confident that Richard Aborn will fix it when he becomes our next District Attorney. Richard has a smart, innovative plan that will reduce recidivism while rebuilding our communities,” said Senator Eric Schneiderman, Chairman of the Senate Codes Committee.
Every year New York City wastes more than $80 million on ineffective detention programs, spending approximately $75,000 annually for every juvenile in a secure detention facility even though the yearly, per-juvenile cost of many alternative community-based programs is less than a third of that. The total cost of the juvenile justice system has increased from $202 million in 2003 to more than $251 million in 2008.
“Alternative community-based programs are cost effective and give kids the help and support they need to be productive members of society. Richard Aborn's bold plan will keep kids out of jail and in their communities, and that will make everyone safer,” said Senator Adams.
“The fastest way to turn a misguided youth into a career criminal, is to send him to jail. Less than two thirds of New York City’s youths are African American and Latino, but 95 percent of the city’s incarcerated young people belong to these groups. Richard Aborn's proven ideas will get kids back on track and strengthen our communities,” said Senator Perkins.
"Our justice system is failing us. We need to change the we approach juvenile crime and only Richard Aborn has a coherent vision for this transformation," added Senator Serrano.
Aborn has devoted his career to innovative ways of fighting crime the right way. He started his law enforcement career prosecuting violent felonies under Robert Morgenthau. He masterminded the Brady gun control bill — and became the NRA's worst enemy. He was a leader in the expansion of the use of DNA evidence to both convict criminals and exonerate the innocent. As the managing partner of a law firm, he has supervised scores of attorneys. And his independent investigation of the NYPD took on police misconduct and brutality.
In recent weeks, Aborn has been also endorsed by former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton; the Working Families Party; Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy; State Senators Bill Perkins, Eric Schneiderman, Jose Serrano, Daniel Squadron, and Eric Adams (also the co-founder of the city-wide group, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care); Assembly Members Jonathan Bing, Deborah Glick, Richard Gottfried, Brian Kavanagh, Daniel O’Donnell, and Linda Rosenthal; Councilmembers Gale Brewer, Rosie Mendez, and Melissa Mark Viverito; former DA candidates Catherine Abate and Richard Davis; long-time progressive voice Katrina vanden Heuvel; and numerous political clubs.
For more information on Aborn and his surging campaign, please visit: www.abornforda.com.