Launching Phase 2 of ACS’ Close to Home Initiative

This past month the Administration for Children’s Services launched the second phase of the Close to Home Initiative, Limited-Secure placements in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. According to ACS, “Young people who are placed into an LSP setting by a Family Court judge typically present higher risks compared to those who are placed in an NSP setting. LSP homes have more restrictive security features compared to NSP group homes to ensure the safety of residents, program staff, and local communities. ACS has contracted with non-profit providers to operate LSP residential sites [and] each LSP group home will serve between 6-20 youth.”

According to an analysis done by the John Jay College Research and Evaluation Center most experts and practitioners believe that Close to Home allowed youth who were still in residential placements to have more opportunities for family visits and maintain positive connections to their communities. Phase 2 will go even further and “perhaps create a truly rehabilitative approach to youth justice”. Two major improvements were seen in during this first phase of Close to Home: a stronger emphasis on contract oversight and a significant improvement in educational supports for justice-involved youth. To read more, click here.


 Solitary Confinement By Any Other Name

According to the November  article in the Nation, Rikers Is Reforming Solitary Confinement—With More Solitary Confinement?, Rikers Island has created a new punitive housing unit called Enhanced Supervision Housing (ESHU).  “Each of the freshly opened ESHU units has 21 cameras, 50 beds, and a higher staff-to-inmate ratio. But despite being in a newly built prison, David, a 26-year-old who stands at 6′ 2″, says he often sleeps on the floor because he can’t fit on the bed (which goes from wall to wall in the cell)… In ESHU you get seven hours out-of-cell time a day; in general population, you’re entitled to 14 hours minimum out-of-cell time, as mandated by the Board of Correction’s standards”.

“In a strange twist of New York City politics, Enhanced Supervised Housing has been promoted as part of the reform package designed to counter the use of solitary confinement at Rikers”. Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte claims that the new units are rehabilitative and not punitive. 16 and 17 year olds are also banned from these new units. To learn more about this convoluted reform solution, read here.


Pre-Trial Detention of Blacks and Latinos Drive Mass Incarceration

“Nationally, approximately 62 percent of all people placed in jail are pretrial detainees charged with nonviolent offenses. Most pretrial defendants are not in jail because there is some reason to believe that, if released, they will re-offend or fail to return for future court dates. Rather, they are simply too poor to pay the money bond imposed by the court as a condition of their release…  Until recently, the dysfunctional bail process has not been at the forefront of the national discussion, even though the most common form of bail — cash bonds or financial release — produces jail overcrowding and fuels mass incarceration. In addition, money-based bail systems cause significant racial and ethnic disparities in pretrial detention and beyond”. To read more from this Huffington Post article, click here.


Old Prisons with a New Purpose that Benefits the Community

Bayview Correctional Facility

The NoVo Foundation, a private foundation established by Jennifer and Peter Buffett (youngest son of investor Warren Buffett), in collaboration with the women’s real-estate development company the Goren Group, has been awarded a 50-year lease to transform the former prison into the Women’s Building—a space where women and girls can access services and resources. “This very building stands for the possibilities when women’s potential is nurtured and not locked away,” said Pamela Shifman, the foundation’s executive director”.

Although plans are still being developed, Shifman envisions a place that will offer women’s organizations a combination of office space, shared events and conference spaces, along with a wellness center and on-site childcare. NoVo is partnering with the Coalition for Women Prisoners and the Women and Justice Project to ensure that formerly incarcerated women, including those who have spent time in Bayview, are involved in envisioning and planning the transformation. In addition to helping plan what the building will offer, women who have been locked inside the former prison will also recommend what aspects should be preserved during the renovation”. To learn more about this innovative approach and similar projects like the former Fulton Correctional Facility in the South Bronx, which is now a re-entry facility operated by the Osbourne Association, read here.


How Exactly Does Parental Incarceration Affect Children?

“Research has long found that children who have (or have had) a parent behind bars tend to suffer from problems including poor health, behavior challenges, and grade retention, but it’s been difficult to suss out the degree to which those issues are attributable more generally to other realities common in communities with high incarceration rates. “It can be challenging to disentangle the effects of parental incarceration from … other risk factors, such as extreme poverty,” Murphey and Cooper write. “Complicating matters further, parental incarceration can also exacerbate these associated risk factors, through loss of income, for example.”.

The Nation describes how this new Child Trends report strives to identify any outcomes in children that are uniquely associated with parental incarceration, specifically the affect on the child’s education. Children of all ages were significantly more likely to have problems in school, while those ages 6 through 11 had lower “school engagement”. The researchers reason that the social stigmas associated with having a parent who is, or has been, in prison might help explain these educational challenges . To read more on this report, see here.


A States-Based Approach to Reforming Juvenile Justice

A new report by the Justice Center at the Council of State Governments argues that states should “tailor supervision and services to young adults; examine barriers to a comprehensive safety net of education, employment and health services; improve data collection and reporting on young adults; and support implementing and evaluating new programs”. They call for innovative approaches that are individualized and comprehensive. Learn more, here.