New York's 28 adolescent prisons "are often sorely underresourced, and some fail to keep their young people safe and secure, let alone meet their myriad service and treatment needs," according to a new study by a state task force. In a policy that is "both extremely expensive and extraordinarily ineffective," the state spends about $210,000 annually for each of 900 young people it holds in "abysmal facilities where they receive little counseling, can be physically abused and rarely get even a basic education," the Times reports.
More than half of the incarcerated youths — 80 percent of whom are black or Latino — were imprisoned for charges that would be equivalent to misdemeanor offenses like theft, drug possession, and truancy. Though the median age is 16, about one-third of the inmates read at a third-grade level, and three quarters of the children are arrested again within three years of their release. About 75 percent of the incarcerated kids come from the New York City area, but nearly all of the prisons are upstate, making it difficult and costly for the inmates to remain in contact with their families.
This study — which notes that "[i]n some facilities, youth are subjected to shocking violence and abuse" — came after an emotionally disturbed 15-year-old was killed when two prison workers pinned him to the ground, and reports of violence at four upstate facilities where youths suffered broken bones and shattered teeth. A spokesman for Governor Paterson said he "looks forward to receiving the recommendations of the task force as we continue our efforts to transform the state’s juvenile justice system from a correctional-punitive model to a therapeutic model," but it is unclear if and how he intends to "transform" the state system, considering New York's current monetary woes.