Governor David Patterson has established a juvenile justice task force authorized to investigate circumstances and procedures for sentencing juveniles in the State of New York. The task force has suggested that New York should stop sentencing low risk juvenile offenders to facilities far from their family residences. The task force has suggested in the alternative that they be sent to lower cost community based programs.
The community based programs would closely monitor the juveniles. They would establish mentoring programs for these children. There would be curfew checks, review of school performances and detailed after school programs to keep them busy. The study has shown that low risk juveniles who have been placed in similar programs can be rehabilitated without the need for institutionalization.
The task force recommendations are excellent. However, the State of New York will not be carrying them out. The budget submitted by Governor Patterson does not contain funds or programs that would encourage localities to develop the recommended community based alternative programs.
Under the current system, New York State reimburses localities for about half the cost of operating pretrial detention programs for juveniles. These costs can be as high as $200,000 per child, per year, to incarcerate a juvenile in a large institution. Presently the state has no program to reimburse localities for community based programs. These programs can cost as little as $5,000 per year.
Senator Velmanette Montgomery, a democrat from Brooklyn has proposed a bill in the State Senate to set aside $12 million to encourage programs for juvenile criminal offenders. These bill is a step in the right direction. Hopefully the legislature of the State of New York will approve it.