In Its Series on Jails and Education, NY1 Finds Hope and Progress
TUESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2010

Tamara A. Steckler, Attorney-in-Charge of the Juvenile Rights Practice, told New York 1 that "there is a huge juvenile justice reform underway and that reform is the first time in the 25 years I’ve been involved seems to involve every major player. Every major stakeholder around the table to effectuate meaningful reform and juvenile justice." Ms. Steckler's comments were part of a series on education and jails. Lindsey Christ, NY1's Education Reporter, has investigated the failure to provide children in trouble with a decent education. Her findings are the focus of a week-long series in which Legal Aid lawyers point out problems and offer solutions.

News All Day
NY1 (IND) NEW YORK
August 17th, 2010 11:00PM

Anchor: As we continue our week-long series on schools and jails, our education reporter Lindsey Christ looks at why officials and advocates agree this may be a golden moment for reform.

Lindsey Christ: It’s a school system within a school system, within the jail system. And the bureaucracy is staggering. It’s no wonder the schools are hard to reform. Almost a dozen agencies and several labor unions are involved. For the schools to work, experts say the systems must be consolidated and agencies must cooperate.

Donald Murphy, Former Teacher, Rikers Island: Every city agency has a piece of Rikers and there is no coordination.

Lindsey Chris: Yet officials and advocates say right now the planets may be aligned for real change.

Tamara Steckler, Juvenile Rights, Legal Aid Society: There is a huge juvenile justice reform underway and that reform is the first time in the 25 years I’ve been involved seems to involve every major player. Every major stakeholder around the table to effectuate meaningful reform and juvenile justice.

Timothy Lisante, Department of Education: I don’t think I’ve been more optimistic. It’s my 33rd year in the system, 23 years working in Rikers Island. And I think it’s because of the interagency collaboration. I don’t think we ever had this many exemplary leaders as commissioners. That makes me excited.

Lindsey Christ: Still teachers and inmates say the jailhouse culture may never be conducive to a healthy school culture.

Nicole Greaves, Former Teacher, Rikers Island: We can’t control what happens with the department of corrections, so if they’re woken up at 3 o’clock in the morning for a search. Sometimes they are kept up for hours. They have to stand there and hold their mattress while their cell is being searched. And school doesn’t start until 8 o’clock in the morning. So they’re up for most of the night. So by the time they come to school they want to sleep.

Devon Stephens, Former Inmate on Rikers Island: It’s regular school, but it’s still jail, so you can’t really get into school more. Like some people get more into school, but sometimes you got to watch your back. You might be the smart one, someone body dumb and they hating you, so they are going to want to fight. You’re locked up, someone telling what to do, when to eat, when to shower, when to go to bed. And you’re going to get tired of it.

Lindsey Christ: But officials and administrators say they are tired of what they consider to be excuses. They are determined to seize the moment and figure out how to fix the schools.

Cami Anderson, Superintendent of Alternative Schools: It seems like there are real sense of urgency on the part of all those agencies to get that right. And that alignment of mission and everyone recognition you know. Education sort of a key, a lynchpin and they want to capitalize on that.

Dora Shiro, Commissioner of Corrections: If we could have one pair of glasses, and whoever puts those glasses on gets to see the same things, because we are speaking the same language.

Lindsey Christ: On Rikers Island, Lindsey Christ, New York 1.