Juveniles To Be Moved From Rikers Island
FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2016

The Wall Street Journal reported on plans by New York City officials to move 16- and 17-year-olds out of Rikers Island and interviewed Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice of The Legal Aid Society, on the decision and underlying state laws.

The youths will be moved to Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx, now a secure detention facility for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, under a plan the publication said is expected to take four years to carry out. In 2014, federal prosecutors said the rights of adolescent inmates held at Rikers were being violated by excessive force by correction staff, excessive solitary confinement and inmate violence. Relatedly, the city must implement reforms to stop staff brutality at Rikers under a consent decree in a case filed by Legal Aid, Ropes & Gray LLP and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP where the Justice Department intervened.

In the Wall Street Journal story, Luongo noted the larger issue surrounding the upcoming move were state laws that deemed age 16 the age of criminal responsibility. The law – matched only in one other state – made for entirely distinct experiences in the criminal justice system for a 15-year-old and for a 16-year-old. “One birthday cake is the difference,” said Luongo.

Wall Street Journal
Under the new plan, 16- and 17-year-olds will be housed at a detention center in the South Bronx now used by the Administration for Children’s Services
By Corinne Ramey
July 21, 2016

New York City plans to move adolescents out of its Riker's Island jail complex and instead house them at a detention center in the South Bronx, city officials said Thursday.

Under the new plan, 16- and 17-year-olds would be housed at the Horizon Juvenile Center, an existing detention facility in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx that is currently used by the Administration for Children’s Services.

The move, which officials expect to take four years, will take juveniles out of Riker’s for the first time since 1932, officials said. New York is one of only two states that prosecutes all adolescents as adults once they turn 16, and those in New York City end up at Riker’s.

As part of the move, they will renovate a Brooklyn facility, called Crossroads Juvenile Center, for adolescents currently held at Horizon. The city has allocated $170 million for the Horizon renovation and $129 million for Crossroads.

The plan has to go through the city’s standard land-use review process. This process requires input from local community boards and others.

The city believes Horizon is an ideal site because it is near public transportation and has classroom and program space. It also has a wing that can be used for young people who only stay a short time. Officials said 55% of young people leave Riker’s within four days.

The treatment of adolescents at Riker’s came under fire in 2014, when the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office released a report documenting conduct that prosecutors said violated the constitutional rights of adolescent inmates. At the time, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara spoke of the overuse of force and a “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere.

In the time since, the Department of Correction has eliminated the use of solitary confinement for all adolescents, added officers and increased programming. The city also entered into a settlement with the Justice Department that mandates changes in the use and reporting of force at Riker’s.

The number of juveniles at Riker’s has declined in the past several years, from 337 in fiscal year 2013 to 188 this fiscal year. Officials expect the adolescent population to be about 130 by the time the move happens.

More than 95% of these juveniles haven’t been convicted and are awaiting trial.

Advocates largely praised the plan, although they cautioned against re-creating a Riker’s-type environment in a new facility. Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal practice at public-defender organization the Legal Aid Society, said the bigger issue was the drastically different treatment that 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds receive in the state’s criminal-justice system.

“One birthday cake is the difference,” she said.