Judge Hunt, sitting in the Family Court of Queens County in November of 2010, rendered a decision in a case that criticized the Probation Assessment Tool. Judge Hunt stated that the Probation Assessment Tool, which was implemented in the year 2003, provided “unwarranted harsher treatment” for many males and “unwise and unjustified lenient treatment for many females.”
Judge Hunt’s decision stated that “by creating a system of gender discrimination against males, [the] program also creates the very real possibility that female delinquents will receive less services or less supervision then they should, which itself creates an unnecessary risk of recidivism as well as an unnecessary risk to the safety of the community.”
Inability of Family Court to Change This Flawed System of Probation
Although Judge Hunt criticized the probation system, he further stated in his decision that he was without authority to change the system. He encouraged the state legislature to look into these problems and address necessary changes to the probation system in the State of New York.
Department of Probation
The New York Family Court Act of 1962 created the Department of Probation. The Department of Probation is authorized to conduct investigations and provide written reports in all delinquency proceedings, unless the procedure is waived by both parties to the proceeding. The Probation Department uses a tool called the Probation Assessment Tool (PAT). This program was developed by a non-profit organization called the Vera Institute of Justice. The PAT Tool covers seven categories. The categories are demographics; current events; legal history; family and home; school; community and peers; and drugs and alcohol/mental health. There are thirty-four questions within the confines of this program. Based on these questions, a score is calculated.
If a juvenile receives a low score, the outcome may result in incarceration or an intensive community program. If a juvenile obtains a high score, he or she usually receives a conditional discharge or an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which is very lenient treatment. Judge Hunt’s decision indicated that the PAT program awards fourteen points simply for an individual answering a question indicating that they are a female. He therefore concluded that girls start off with a discriminatory benefit. Judge Hunt concluded in his decision that, due to the scoring disparities, the recommendations of PAT “would have been absurd and in some cases reckless.” Judge Hunt strongly suggested the New York State Legislature take immediate action to address this discriminatory tool used by probation departments.
It should be noted that judges, not the Department of Probation, have the ultimate authority concerning the sentencing of juveniles. Probation reports are merely recommendations that the judge can either accept or ignore.
Our office has been representing boys, men and fathers in the Family Court for three decades. We represent them concerning issues involving orders of protection, paternity, child custody, visitation, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), child abuse, child neglect proceedings, CPS and ACS problems and also criminal allegations involving domestic violence.
We also represent fathers in divorce proceedings. Within the divorce proceedings, we litigate high net worth issues, equitable distribution of assets, parental relocation problems, parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome issues. In amicable situations, we negotiate separation agreements and we provide arbitration and mediation representation. Call us for a free consultation at 516-561-6645, 718-350-2802 or 1-800-344-6431.