New York City’s criminal justice system is currently going through a period of reform and change. There is a plan to merge the City’s two, currently underused, Juvenile Secure Detention Facilities (Crossroads and Horizon) in the next few years. Another plan is to convert one of the facilities to hold older, higher-risk youths given the impending closure of New York’s Rikers Island facility. This closure will result in the transfer of older youth (age 17 and up), who are currently incarcerated at Rikers, to the City’s juvenile detention facilities. In addition, the successful “Raise the Age” initiative has recently raised New York’s age of criminal responsibility to 18, leading to the inclusion of a new group, Adolescent Offenders, into the juvenile system which currently only accommodates youth up to 16 years of age.
ACS, which is in charge of the City’s juvenile detention system, sought the team’s assistance in developing a tool to make housing classification more systematic and evidence-based, all with the ultimate objective to improve safety and well-being of youth during their time in secure detention. Based on findings from a literature review, staff interviews, expert interviews, and an analysis of juvenile facility-based data, the team identified key factors relevant for housing placement decisions and constructed a tool that can be piloted and tested by ACS.