Division of Criminal Justice Services

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For Immediate Release: 6/30/2021

CONTACT:  Janine Kava | janine.kava@dcjs.ny.gov
(518) 457-8906 | (518) 275-5508 
Press Office, New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

New York State announces creation of new Policy Equity Academy
to address racial and ethnic disparities in the state’s youth justice system

Division of Criminal Justice Services, Youth Justice Institute at the University at Albany and Center for Children’s Law and Policy partnered to develop state-specific curriculum

Five County Probation Departments are the first to receive training and funds to develop
local plans to improve outcomes for youth of color in their communities

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services has partnered with the Center for Children’s Law and Policy and Youth Justice Institute at the University at Albany to establish the New York State Policy Equity Academy to build the capacity and skills of local youth justice practitioners so they can implement programs and policies to improve outcomes for youth of color in their communities. Staff from probation departments and other youth justice system stakeholders in Albany, Monroe, Onondaga, Schenectady and Westchester counties are the first to receive training and funding to address racial and ethnic disparities and underlying factors that contribute to unequal outcomes in the state’s youth justice system.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) Office of Youth Justice applied for, and received, $421,000 in grant funding from the federal Delinquency Prevention Program and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for the initiative, which was launched today. The partners developed a training and curriculum specific to New York State with the goal of building and sustaining effective and results-driven work in communities statewide, rather than relying on out-of-state training on the topic, as was done in the past.

Effective strategies developed and implemented will be shared with other county probation departments that work with the Youth Justice Institute or receive technical assistance from the DCJS Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, the state’s nine Regional Youth Justice Teams, and the state’s Partnership for Youth Justice, so those professionals benefit from the work done by the Academy’s inaugural class and effect further change in the state’s youth justice system.

“The development of the Policy Equity Academy by the Office of Youth Justice furthers our mission to improve the quality and effectiveness of the state’s criminal justice system,” DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said. “I applaud the youth justice practitioners from Albany, Monroe, Onondaga, Schenectady and Westchester counties for their leadership and willingness to engage in this important work to improve the system and increase the chances that justice-involved youth will receive the help and support they need to succeed in life.”

Tiana Davis, Policy Director for Equity and Justice at the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, said, “With the launch of the Policy Equity Academy, New York State has taken a trailblazing step to promote race equity in the youth justice system. The state’s investments to support local-level racial justice work that prioritizes community-centered solutions is a formula that we expect to achieve significant, positive, and measurable results for youth, families, and communities of color.”

New York State has made strides toward improving the fairness of the state’s criminal and youth justice system, including implementation of the landmark Raise the Age law, which increased the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and created additional opportunities for youth who are 17 and under to receive and benefit from age-appropriate services.

Fewer youth of color are diverted from Family Court than their white counterparts, however, and disparate placement and outcomes continue to be more pronounced for Black youth compared to white youth. In 2019, Black youth represented 16 percent of the state’s youth population, yet accounted for 49 percent of cases referred to juvenile court, 60 percent of secure detentions (youths removed from their homes prior to their cases being resolved), 48 percent of cases resulting in delinquent findings, 52 percent of cases resulting in probation, and 57 percent of cases resulting in placement in secure juvenile correctional facilities.

University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez said, “The University at Albany is pleased to partner in this critical push to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities for youth in the criminal justice system. Our Youth Justice Institute is poised to share its research and resources to help train key stakeholders and to work collaboratively with the state to create a more equitable youth justice system.”

Youth Justice Institute Executive Director Giza Lopes, Ph.D. said, “We are proud of the work we do at the Youth Justice Institute to ensure a fairer system for young justice-involved New Yorkers, and we thank Governor Cuomo and DCJS for their support of this initiative to create the first New York-specific training to reduce racial and ethnic disparities that put children of color at a disadvantage. We look forward to working with county probation departments to develop and implement plans to create lasting change that will improve the lives of youth, who, for too long, have faced an unequal system.”

The five counties applied to participate in the Academy. Probation departments lead each county’s team, composed of eight to 10 members, including youth and/or family members who have had encounters with the justice system, service providers, community and civic organizations, law enforcement, the defense community and courts. The curriculum includes targeted, virtual learning sessions, during which participants will explore implicit bias, the origins of disparities and the reasons inequities persist, and analyze demographic data at various decision points for local and national trends.

The goal is to develop and implement concrete policy, practices and programs to reduce the number of Black youth whose cases end up in Family Court. To that end, plans will aim to increase the number of Black youth offered adjustment services, who participate in adjustment services and successfully complete adjustment services. The Academy will help with the development of those local action plans, and each county will receive $50,000 to assist with implementation.

Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, “The New York State Office of Children and Family Services is honored to partner with the Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Youth Justice Institute to implement equitable youth justice reforms. New York’s Policy Equity Academy is a unique multi-disciplinary opportunity to align statewide youth justice practices while keeping equity front and center. Building this sustainable interdisciplinary capacity will reduce disparate outcomes for youth, families and communities, while continuing to promote the system partnerships needed to safely reduce youth out-of-home placements.”

Commissioners Green and Poole chair the executive committee that oversees the Youth Justice Institute, established in partnership with the University at Albany in 2016. The Institute aims to build and strengthen the capacity of localities across the state to adopt evidence-informed youth justice practices by disseminating information, assisting with implementation and assessing efficacy in existing youth justice programs, and conducting research to advance the science and practice of evidence-based initiatives. The state’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, to which the Office of Youth Justice at DCJS provides staff support, supported the creation of the Academy and also recently awarded $1.9 million in federal funding through December 2023 to support the Institute’s work.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry. Follow the agency on Twitter and Facebook: @NYSPublicSafety.