Fixing New York State's Broken Juvenile Justice System
Olean State Senator Catharine Young announced Wednesday the creation of a new Special Legislative Task Force on fixing New York State's broken juvenile justice system.
The announcement of the Task Force comes in the wake of the brutal June 8 murder of 24-year-old Renee Greco, an employee at a youth home in Lockport, New York, allegedly at the hands of two teenage residents.
“The shocking and cold blooded bludgeoning that took place at this facility begs the question if this heinous act could have been avoided had the two youths charged in this case been properly placed in a facility better suited to address to their violent tendencies,” said Sen. Young.
“There’s just such a complete lack of accountability,” Senator George D. Maziarz (R-C, Newfane) said. “Every day there is more news of violence in one of these facilities or that a resident is unaccounted for out in the community. Violent juveniles are inappropriately being placed in these facilities and OCFS, as the gatekeeper of these homes, is putting everyone at risk – the community, the staff, and other juveniles within the home. A drastic overhaul needs to be done and the start of that process is this Juvenile Task Force.”
“This task force is an important first step to address growing concerns that our juvenile justice system is dysfunctional, dangerous to clients, staff and the community, and the reason why we need to take a closer look and find out where we can make improvements,” said Senator Dale M. Volker. “We all want to do what is best for these at-risk kids so that they can become productive citizens and assets to their communities. At this moment, it is obvious that the State of New York can do better to reform these young people and get them back on the right track. By taking a hard look at the system, we will be able to get better results, and at the same time improve the safety of staff and the communities in which these facilities are located.”
Members of the Task Force have pointed to the Lockport incident as an example of a disturbing trend emerging in relation to violent youths and residential services. In February, Rochester Police Officer Anthony DiPonzio sustained a life-threatening and debilitating injury when he was shot in the back of his head by a juvenile who had run away from a private state-licensed facility.
Senator Joseph Robach said, “We all want the youth of our community to grow up with a good support system in the form of a good education and opportunities that will help guide them to become productive, law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately, when a young person follows the wrong path and commits a heinous, violent crime we have no choice but to ensure the safety of the community and the people who work at youth facilities by providing for these dangerous offenders to be located in a more secure juvenile detention center. The tragic shooting of Officer Anthony DiPonzio by a youth in Rochester is just one example of why we need a task force to review and reform our Juvenile Justice System.”
Senator Marty Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn) stated, “As a former New York City Police Officer, I believe this new task force to be one charged with tremendous responsibility. The closure of six youth detention facilities across our State have, and will, continue impact the public safety of all New Yorkers. When the task force meets for the first time, we are going to find that we are losing control of our troubled youth instead of helping them get their lives back on track. This fails New York’s families and New York’s future. We must work to change that.”
“The most important thing at these facilities is the safety of residents as well as employees,” said Senator Betty Little. “Many of these youths are deeply troubled and potentially violent. They deserve a fully functioning system that is going to help them recover, learn to make better choices and grow in preparation of reentering society. Likewise, the employees of this agency need and deserve the reassurance that everything is being done to ensure their work environment is as safe as possible.”
State Senator John Bonacic (R-I-C – Mt. Hope) said, “Keeping employees safe in OCFS facilities must be our first priority. Employee after employee tells me they have lost faith in the management of OCFS. Juvenile justice requires the goal to be justice - for both the victim of juvenile crime and for the juvenile offender. The OCFS leadership has failed both crime victims and the young people they are supposed to be rehabilitating.”
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