The Close to Home Initiative is a juvenile justice program intended to keep youth close to their communities. The program includes youth with cases in the criminal justice system in New York City who were placed with the New York City Administration for Children Services (ACS) by a Family Court. The NYC Close to Home initiative can create major strides in the juvenile justice system by authorizing New York City to create a cycle of services to help youth return to their communities, prepare them to succeed, and foster growth as productive adults in society.
Goals of the NYC Close to Home Initiative
- Keep juveniles in the criminal justice system close to their homes in order to minimize familial separation and maximize positive ties with their communities.
- Promote community involvement to strengthen support systems for struggling youth.
- Implement an effective cycle of diversion, supervision, treatment, and confinement for the best level of care to give all youth that coincides with public safety.
- Maintain accountability through both internal and external oversight.
- Tailor the program with evidence-based practices to improve outcomes for youth in the justice system, uphold public safety, reduce recidivism, and lower racial disparities.
- Provide effective reintegration support with appropriate educational services and behavioral treatments during the transition out of placement.
How the Program Works
New York City has developed comprehensive, individuals plans for the two phases in this program, beginning with youth in non-secure settings and then moving to the limited secure phase. The plans need to be approved by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), in conjunction with the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). That being said, secure settings for juveniles in the criminal justice system will continue to be maintained by New York state. The plans include:
- How evidence-based services will be given to meet the mental health, substance abuse, educational, and re-entry needs of youth.
- How public safety will be maintained throughout the program.
- How continuous local community and stakeholder engagement will be maintained.
- How youth will be served in setting with the least restriction necessary while maintaining public safety.
- How gender-specific programming will be implemented and established policies to meet the specialized needs of LGBTQ youth.
- How the plan will help reduce the disparities in minority confinement of youth.
Changes in Funding
Thus far, the NYC Close to Home initiative has been successful, which comes at a turning point for juvenile justice in New York as the “Raise the Age” legislation takes effect. “Raise the Age” is another key player in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s vision for reforming the criminal justice system. It passed in 2017, which increases the age of criminal responsibility in New York State to 18-years old. Under this legislation, youth ages 16 and 17 will be transferred out of adult prisons and into juvenile settings beginning this year. As “Raise the Age” comes fully into effect, the amount of youth in Close to Home will grow as the amount of youth imprisoned with adults lowers.
For this reason, it has been surprising to many that Gov. Cuomo’s recent budget proposal would eliminate the state funding for the Close to Home initiative. This would make New York City entirely responsible the $75 million and growing costs for the program. Currently, New York state helps will 40% of the funding for the program. While Gov. Cuomo has not explained why he proposed to eliminate state funding, there is a clear indication that it will result in difficulty with implementing Raise the Age as planned. Contrary to the budget, it is widely agreed that youth should be involved in community-based rehabilitation that Close to Home offers, rather than serving sentences in adult prisons or facilities very far away from their homes. In the coming weeks, the state budget will be negotiated, so the fate of state funding for Close to Home is still uncertain.