Posts Tagged ‘tryon’
Cheers to New York’s new governor, Andrew Cuomo, who’s vowed to restructure and maybe even close the state’s notorious juvenile justice facilities:
Cuomo said he understands the importance of keeping jobs, but that doesn’t justify the cost to the taxpayer and the risk to the young people who are in programs that aren’t working, many of them hundreds of miles from home.
“An incarceration program is not an employment program. If people need jobs, let’s get people jobs,” he said in his address Wednesday.
One of my first posts here at Prison Law Blog was on the especially infamous Tryon juvenile facility upstate, which is scheduled to shut its doors in just a few weeks. One of Gov. Cuomo’s proposals is to shorten the current 12-month waiting period that draws out the closure process for these facilities.
USA Today recently reported on New York State’s troubled juvenile prisons, and on problems more generally with the juvenile justice system nationwide. The article notes that Missouri’s innovative juvenile justice system could offer a model for states hoping to implement less punitive, more rehabilitative programs for juvenile offenders:
Since 2000, the Justice Department has conducted at least 11 investigations into juvenile facilities in states including California, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland and Oklahoma. Its findings illustrate that the same problems persist: overreliance on physical restraint and insufficient mental health services.
Other states that have come under federal investigation, including Louisiana, have adopted practices pioneered in Missouri. There, the juvenile system converted to small facilities more like treatment centers than prisons, focused on counseling and stopped the use of restraints. Only 8.6% of youths released from custody are recommitted within three years, the Missouri Department of Youth Services says. In New York, the figure is 45%, the [New York juvenile justice] task force [appointed by Gov. David Paterson] says.
“In looking at the national picture, the old model is under serious change,” [head of New York task force Jeremy] Travis says. “You have places like New York saying, we want to follow (Missouri’s) lead and recognizing we’re very much stuck in an old corrective punitive model.”
From the New York Times: A New York state judge has called for the repeal of the state juvenile prison system’s policy of routinely shackling juvenile offenders when transporting them to court — with no individualized determination of whether the youth poses a danger, and even for those kids in custody for minor offenses like truancy or graffiti:
Justice Tingling found that the agency’s policy violated the state’s own law on shackling youths in custody, which states that shackles should be used only as a last resort, for youths who are dangerous and uncontrollable by any other means, and then only for half an hour. And shackles can be used during transport only when the youths pose a physical threat, the judge found.
That’s how New York Magazine‘s Jennifer Gonnerman describes the Tryon Residential Center in her lengthy article this week on the upstate New York juvenile prison. [h/t: my favorite East Villager, Casey Degen.] Apart from being the place where a young Mike Tyson learned to box, Tryon doesn’t have a great track record: in recent years, kids have suffered concussions, broken bones, and even — in the case of 15-year-old Darryl Thompson of the Bronx — accidental death at the hands of staff there. (Thompson’s death was medically ruled a homicide, but the grand jury declined to indict.) The DOJ threatened to step in if conditions didn’t improve, Governor Paterson’s started a task force, and last week Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to restructure New York City’s juvenile justice system so as to incarcerate fewer teenage offenders.
From a one-time height of over 300 boys, the center currently houses just 46 boys, as young as 12, half with diagnosed mental illnesses, most black, many with histories of abuse and stints in the foster care system, and most hailing from Brooklyn and the Bronx. It’s sort of like a twisted version of the Fresh Air Fund:
To the kids from New York City, Tryon feels like Siberia. “It’s like being in outer space,” says a teenager from Linden Boulevard. The sun disappears by mid-afternoon, and the snow never seems to stop. To get from their cottage to the school building, the boys pull on hats, gloves, and boots, then walk a quarter-mile through howling wind. From their bedrooms, they can hear guns firing—not the sound of a drive-by but of deer hunters. The kids talk to their families on the telephone, but many of them never get a visit. It’s difficult to get here without a car, and the trip by train and cab from New York City can run close to $200 round trip, an impossibly steep price for most parents.
Especially troubling is Gonnerman’s description of the mental health care services — or lack thereof — available to the boys incarcerated at Tryon: