PEF Warned OCFS Commissioner Carrion's Direction Would Be Costly
New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) warned that the direction New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYS OCFS) was taking under Commissioner Gladys Carrion would be costly.
The death of Renee Greco, who was brutally murdered on June 8, 2009, at a privately operated group home in Lockport, NY, is said to have raised the final red flag that the state's juvenile justice system is out of control.
Greco was a counselor at the NYS OCFS licensed facility where 17-year-old Robert Thousand and 18-year-old Anthony Allen, are charged with killing Greco to cover-up a $160 theft that occurred in the home.
Greco's murder was not an isolated incident.
OCFS has been moving juvenile offenders and delinquents out of more secure state-run facilities and into communities.
On June 23, a teenager was arrested for a murder committed May 30 in Brooklyn. The teen was in an OCFS aftercare program and was released from a limited-secure residential facility March 30 despite concerns about his release from staffers.
At the end of May, a dozen youths from the privately operated Randolph Children’s Home in western NY, fought with police and staff, forcing authorities to use pepper spray to quell the melee.
And PEF has received numerous complaints from members who work in OCFS facilities, stating Carrion’s changes have created a breakdown in discipline, causing a violent environment where troubled youths assault staff and gangs intimidate other youths.
“Someone needs to be held accountable for these deaths and the way the juvenile justice system in New York has deteriorated,” said PEF President Ken Brynien.
Lawmakers, community members, youth facility staff and police are pointing the finger at OCFS Commissioner Gladys Carrion.
In the last year and a half, OCFS has closed 13 juvenile facilities and downsized three, as a cost-savings measure. Carrion has stated her focus at youth facilities is to promote recovery, healing and growth. Instead, according to PEF members from the Tryon Residential School for Girls in Johnstown, the new method has resulted in a total breakdown in enforcement of discipline and led to increased violence among the youths and against the staff.
“Through her spokesperson, Commissioner Carrion has implied that facility unrest is due in large part to employees’ intransigence to change from a correctional to a therapeutic environment. This is not only incorrect, it is insulting,” Brynien said. “Our members, including teachers, counselors and psychologists, have dedicated their careers to changing the lives of troubled youths. They now find the environment within OCFS is too unsafe and dysfunctional for them to effectively do their jobs.”
Brynien said Gov. David Paterson needs to hold Carrion accountable for her actions and the direction she has taken OCFS.
“Our goals for troubled youths must be balanced by public safety, safety of staff and safety of the youths. These tragic deaths bring us to the conclusion the commissioner has crossed the line.”
Previous coverage on NowPublic by this Author:
Fixing New York State's Broken Juvenile Justice System
Senator Young calls for state investigation into NYS OCFS
Senator Maziarz calls meetings with NYS OCFS "very disappointing"
Greco's murder triggers tough questions for NYS OCFS
Industry professional describes Greco's murderers as "warehoused"
NYS lawmakers push for answers after murder of youth counselor