|Nearly 300 Bronx community members voice concerns and opinions on Gov. Cuomo’s juvenile justice overhaul|
|Wednesday, 04 April 2012 10:37|
Bronx families, service providers and former inmates who would be directly affected by an overhaul of the juvenile justice system spoke out Monday night about moving young criminals to facilities closer to where they live.
The community forum, held at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, was led by city Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Ronald Richter, and featured a panel from the departments of Education and Probation.
“This is a dramatic change in the way that our juvenile justice system works,” said Richter, whose agency is charged with locating new “placements” in the area for youth under 15 who are incarcerated upstate.
“The whole concept of separating (kids) from everything they know is very traumatic and dramatic,” he added.
The rehabilitative approach is the highlight of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Close to Home initiative, signed into law on Friday, which aims to transfer young offenders held in non-secure state facilities to the city’s care in September. Those held in limited secure facilities will be handed over in September 2013.
Jeanette Bocanegra, a mother of six whose youngest child, 16, is at Middletown Residential Center in Orange County, said the forum was “long overdue,” but questioned whether communities are prepared to receive kids transitioning back.
“A lot of kids that come out of upstate facilities come out worse,” said the mom, who travels nearly three hours every Sunday to visit her son. “What services are we gonna provide for them, knowing that schools are pushing them out? I’m scared that there’s gonna be no seats in schools for them.”
“We will make sure that our kids transition to a solid school placement,” Richter assured parents echoing the same concerns.
A teenager who requested his name be withheld said he was imprisoned in Highland Residential Center, about two and a half hours away, for eight months, and then monitored at home by a probation officer.
“I think this is a good idea, because there are kids like me that need their families,” said the teen, who was charged with grand larceny. “A phone call and a letter doesn’t do it.”
Not everyone agrees with the initiative, which would save roughly $9 million in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
James Soures, 34, who was in prison for 12 years and released two years ago, said officials should rethink their methods.
“Keeping kids close to home is saying, ‘You know what? The (crime) is not that serious,’” he said.