KINGS COUNTY NEW YORK TASK FORCE
(Left) The Kings County, New York Task Force Meeting for the first time at the Initial Training Conference in Washington, DC.
The Kings County/Brooklyn, New York Task Force (BTF) focused its efforts on youth in the criminal justice system, recognizing this as a pressing issue for the courts and community. As people of color are unfortunately over-represented in the New York City criminal justice system. In 2012, almost 85% of the 90,000 people arrested in Brooklyn were African-American or Hispanic, and 15% (13,500) were youth under the age of 20 (CJA Annual Report). The one year re-arrest rate for these youth is 41%. The Task Force recognized that a reform to any part of the system would have a positive racial impact. The Task Force developed a pilot project targeting 16 and 17 year-old youth arrested on minor misdemeanor charges and arraigned in adult criminal court, a disproportionately large percentage of whom are youth of color. The project offered eligible youth adolescent-appropriate services and, in exchange for their participation, the court dismissed their cases upon program completion. Defendants’ compliance was monitored by the Department of Probation. The initiative was modeled on the current practice of Adjustment in Family Court for juvenile offenders. The goal of the project was to have a constructive impact on the youth’s view of his or her future at a critical juncture in his or her life. The project’s experience will inform a broader state-wide effort aimed at rethinking the way our criminal justice system treats 16 and 17 year-olds. For more information, please click here.
Concurrently, the Task Force partnered with the New York State Judicial Institute, the Administrative Judge of New York City Criminal Court and the Chief Clerk of New York City Criminal Court to design and implement a judicial training program for New York City Criminal Court Judges. Two trainings were organized: the first focused on raising awareness of cultural and implicit bias issues that impact decision-making; the second provided insight into the latest research on adolescent brain development and its implications in the criminal justice system. The format of the trainings included the solicitation of feedback and participation by the judges attending and was designed to gauge specific reactions to scenarios. The programs were well-received by the judges and more than 85% of New York City Criminal Court judges attended.
In 2014, the Kings County Task Force expanded its membership to include the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Legal Aid Society (LAS). The Task Force is comprised of senior-level representatives from each of the stakeholder agencies, making the Task Force an effective forum for identifying and addressing both day-to-day issues and more ambitious reforms. The expanded membership is listed below. Members also bring in other agency personnel to participate in working groups addressing specific implementation issues. In addition, the Task Force is collaborating with the Department of Education, the Center for Court Innovation, and Young New Yorkers to design and implement appropriate programs for DAT-Y participants. To view a list of the members, please click here.
Beginning in January 2014, the BTF expanded its membership to include representatives from the Legal Aid Society, NYPD and the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice (MOCJ) with a view to expanding the pilot projects to all 16 and 17 year-olds in Brooklyn with DATs. The BTF has incorporated a number of new features in this borough-wide roll-out, including:
In the Summer 2014 DAT-Y program, which has been expanded borough-wide, all eligible youth with DATs issued between July 7, 2014 and August 31, 2014 will be included. Implementation during this trial period and the re-arrest results that are obtained will inform a permanent program in Brooklyn and, if successful, expansion to all five counties in New York City.
To continue the judicial training program and the cultural competency training, the BTF is also planning to offer implicit bias and adolescent behavior training to Brooklyn Supreme Court justices. This training will be modeled on the successful programs delivered to criminal court judges in the last grant period.
As with the previous pilot projects, the BTF will monitor re-arrest rates among the participants and a comparison group. The BTF is working with the Center for Court Innovation and the NYS Department of Criminal Justice Statistics to implement a suitable evaluation plan.
Final Evaluation Findings:
The DAT-Y project has substantial support from the criminal justice system in Brooklyn already. If the results achieved to date are sustained over a longer time period and in a larger sample, the project will have demonstrated an effective way to decrease re-arrest rates that is low-cost and of high benefit to at-risk youth. BTF members and their agencies are working together to develop a rigorous monitoring and evaluation plan to obtain measurable results for this purpose.
At the same time, BTF members have begun to disseminate information about the DAT-Y program in the broader Brooklyn community. The success of the pilot DAT-Y program has garnered media interest and inquiries from other jurisdictions interested in replicating the program. If the project is expanded to all five New York City counties as is projected, it is anticipated that there will be more media interest, which informs and educates the criminal justice community and the public.
The Judicial Training activities in Brooklyn Criminal court have been well-received, with the result that the Supreme Court judges have expressed interest in a similar program and cultural competency training is planned for the Fall 2014. In the long term, the BTF would like to extend these training programs to the defense attorneys and prosecutors practicing in the court.
A continued reduction in recividism rates for the participating DAT-Y youths and creation of a permanent borough-wide program would be a success, as would expansion of the program city-wide. Periodic judicial training on cultural competency and implicit bias would also be a successful innovation.
Expanding opportunities for DAT-Y- eligible youths to access a wide array of educational options and program services is also an important component in the success of the program, as is insuring fair procedural justice in Criminal Court.
The BTF is taking a deliberately cautious path to expanding the DAT-Y program, so that the final model is easily replicable. By launching repeated iterations of the pilot, BTF members identify and address issues that arise in implementation. We are also aware of the various logistical and budgetary issues that will develop as the program expands.
In bringing in senior staff from the Mayor’s Office, NYPD and the Legal Aid Society, the BTF now incorporates all the key agencies in the criminal justice system in Brooklyn, and has a significantly greater city-wide presence. BTF members are thus well-placed to oversee the development of appropriate and sustainable in-house procedures for the implementation of the DAT-Y project. As the DAT-Y project moves beyond the parameters of the BTF, members are focusing on other issues in the criminal justice system for their next project.
Project update! On April 2014, The Brooklyn Task Force held a training regarding adolescent behavior and implicit bias for all Kings County Judges. The task force is planing another training and currently discussing the expansion of their current juvenile program.
Project Update! With funds provided by the Public Welfare Foundation, the Brooklyn Task Force will be sustaining their great work by initiating another round of juvenile diversion efforts. The first scheduled adjourn date was November 2013, with an additional adjourn date on December 2013. Congratulations to Brooklyn for their continued commitment. To learn more about this project click here.
What's Happening in Brooklyn! The Kings County New York Task Force welcomes Honorable George Grasso, of the Criminal Court of the City of New York, Kings County, as the newest member of the team. Judge Grasso was a former member of the New York Police Department, and was the former First Deputy Police Commissioner. Lance Ogiste, the Task Force's prosecution representative, was recently awarded the Thomas E. Dewey Medal, an award presented every year to an outstanding prosecutor in the office of each of the five District Attorneys.
Congratulations Lisa Schreibersdorf! Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services and member of the Kings County Brooklyn Task Force, received the Judith Kaye Public Service Award on behalf of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York on June 6, 2013.
In The Press:
NEW YORK CITY ALLOWS CITIZENS TO CHALLENGE RACIAL PROFILING PRACTICES IN STATE COURT
The New York City Council has approved a measure to allow citizens to sue the New York Police Department in state court not only for individual instance of racial discrimination but also to challenge police practices that disproportionately affect racial minorities without serving any significant law enforcement goal. The bill, known as the Community Safety Act, passed by a veto-proof majority—vital because Mayor Michael Bloomberg has promised to veto the measure. The bill also expands the definition of bias-based profiling to include age, gender, housing status, and sexual orientation.
The Sentencing Project, 2013.
IMPROVING JUSTICE FOR ADOLESCENTS IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
The Criminal Justice Response to 16- and 17-Year-Old Defendants in New York, a new study from researchers at the Center for Court Innovation, documents how the justice system handles 16- and 17-year-old defendants across New York State. The report also examines the Adolescent Diversion Program, an initiative launched by New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to improve outcomes for this population. To read the full report, please click here.
Center for Court Innovation, 2014.
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