Keeping Children Out of Overly Restrictive Settings

Jamie B. v. Hernandez,
401872/98 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co.)

Nature of Claims: Children charged with delinquency in New York City challenged the NY City Department of Juvenile Justice’s practice of incarcerating young people in secure jail facilities when Family Court judges had remanded them to non-secure detention group homes (NSD), or when judges had remanded children “open” and DJJ found them eligible for the group homes. The children also challenged NY State’s Office of Children and Family Services’ failure to ensure that DJJ provided sufficient NSD detention space.

Current Status: Jurisdiction has ended but the terms of settlement with DJJ are continued by agreement. Settled with City after preliminary injunction litigation, by Stipulation and Order, in May 2002. In 2003, plaintiffs conducted discovery and settled a potential systemic contempt motion. A plaintiff class had been certified by the trial court in 1999 but was reversed by the Appellate Division based on the “government operations rule.” A trial was held on claims against State OCFS in August 2001, after which the State successfully moved to dismiss based on change in law (granted January 2003).

No NSD-remanded children have been placed in secure detention since the case was settled. Legal Aid daily monitors and enforces compliance with the requirement that open remanded clients be assessed for NSD and moved (if eligible) within 72 hours of admission, as well as the requirement that DJJ maintain sufficient NSD space. Legal Aid secured the right to continued documentation, and participation in frequent meetings regarding DJJ’s assessment of needs and plans for provision of adequate NSD group home space, after preparing to move to extend jurisdiction in 2006.

No. of Persons Affected: Hundreds of children each year, aged 10-15.

Reported Decisions: 701 N.Y.S.2d 790 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 1999); 274 A.D.2d 335 (1st Dep’t 2000)