Benefits - Oneida County
As a county agency, Youth Court rightly assists the county, but Oneida County Youth Court is unique in the sense that it saves taxpayer money on various levels and helps other agencies:
- Placement Facilities
- Family Court
- Evidence of Youth Court Success
- Overall Atmosphere
- Model to Others
- The cost of placing a youth in a facility is an incredible burden on taxpayers. The costs at non-secured detention facilities within the county were $201.71, $210.00 and $258.97 per day. This averages to between $73,624.15 and $94,524.05 per child, annually. It is easy to see how a $40,000 program like Youth Court is a great alternative to any type of placement in the future. The average stay is 19 days, at a cost between $3832.49 and $4920.43. In 2001, New York had 4,593 youth detained, incarcerated or placed in a residential facility. It is easy to see how a $40,000 program like Youth Court is a great alternative to any type of placement in the future.
- Regardless of how a youth enters juvenile custody, nearly all of them are at a significant risk of failure upon their exit. Youth involved in the juvenile justice system are one of four groups identified as “at-risk,” likely to consistently fail. Each year, there are approximately 600,000 admissions to secure detention facilities across the country and 27,000 youth in these institutions on any given day. This represents a 100 percent increase since 1985. From a professional standpoint, many of these facilities are unable to provide the kinds of custody or care that these youth require.
- Suicide rate within these facilities is more than four times higher than in the general population. Education is often stunted within these facilities as well, as approximately 42% suffer from learning disabilities. In addition the to sub par educational standards, school districts are often opposed to re-enrolling youth released from detention facilities. Those re-enrolled often fail to receive academic credits earned within the facility. It is no wonder that a study of incarcerated 9th graders found that slightly more than half returned to school when released. Of those that returned, 67% dropped out within one year. After four years, only 15% completed high school. Recidivism rates for once-confined youth ranges from 50-80% in most studies. A 1999 study mandated by the New York State Legislature found that 81% of boys and 46% of girls released from OCFS custody had been rearrested within 36 months. Prior confinement is actually a greater predictor than gang membership. The London School of Economics found that having been in jail poses the most important deterrent to employment, even years later. Coupled with the above statistics showing how few offenders return to and complete school, this is quite disturbing. Without employment or school, offenders have relatively little to do but get into trouble.
- This is exactly why any program that aims to curb recidivism and attack offenses as soon as they occur should remain an integral part of the criminal justice system. The top five offenses for which youth are serving in detention facilities throughout the state are assault (439 detained youth), robbery (372), larceny (369), burglary (186) and criminal mischief (149). With the exception of robbery, which often begins with burglary and larceny, Oneida County Youth Court is specifically designed to deal with each of these cases. As one can see from Youth Court’s offense records, the majority of our cases have been criminal mischief, larceny and burglary.
- This is a prime example of preventative justice; we attack these crimes as early as we can. Although they may not be serious enough to warrant traditional punishments through court or probation agencies, they are a perfect fit for youth court. The director has heard from several representatives from police and probation agencies that have praised the program because it deals with cases they would often let pass. Think about that, burglars and larcenists allowed free because the system essentially ties the hands of agencies when offenses occur for the first time and are perceived as minor. The ultimate cost to taxpayers when these offenders end up in placement facilities for crimes that once went unpunished is inexcusable from a public policy standpoint.
Youth Court also provides valuable service to the Department of Probation as an alternative to Juvenile Delinquency (JD) and Person In Need of Supervision (PINS) cases.
- In 2004, Probation dealt with 864 juvenile cases. Youth Court Helps because it is:
1.) Inexpensive – as opposed to court or detention
2.) Easy – requires a probation officer to attach an “Intake Form” to an arrest report, and then simply pass it along to our agency.
3.) Effective – As opposed to dropping the case, which can happen if the case is perceived as minor, Probation can refer the case to youth court, where the case will be heard and Probation can focus on its more pressing concerns.
- As of April 1st, 2005, Part E of Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2005 made it more difficult for agencies such as Probation to refer juveniles to placement facilities. This means Probation must show that all diversion options have been exhausted before a youth may be sent to a placement facility. Youth Court is a prime example of a diversion option that is inexpensive, easy and effective.
- If Probation is forced to bounce kids around the system, this could complicate their effectiveness and the great job that they do. They could require more staff to exhaust all diversion options or they may be forced to ignore first-time offenders and/or less serious offenses in order to focus on the more serious cases and the diversion process. Youth Court is currently a strong option that can help alleviate that scenario. This opens the possibility of more staff or fewer cases accepted. The former will be difficult to justify under current fiscal conditions, while the latter would be unacceptable to a public that expects offenders to be dealt with.
- Oneida County Family Court is another agency that is affected by the Youth Court Program.
- Family Court is funded in part by county funds diverted to staff and case work.
- Family Court is overwhelmed with cases. They rely on Oneida County Youth Court to divert some of the less serious cases.
- Anything that takes away from that relationship will once again put the county in a position where it is overburdening an agency like Family Court, which would require more funding or fewer cases accepted, both difficult choices to justify.
Youth Court Potential - Money saved, youth benefited and overall success of other programs
- Delaware County officials determined that sending youthful offenders through Youth Court saved the county over $75,000 in probation and court costs.
- Oneida County Youth Court is also following in the footsteps of Syracuse, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Cattaraugus County and Yonkers youth courts in hearing school violations that may lead to the filing of PINS petitions.
- Onondaga County Youth Court, which began in 2003, has seven regional youth courts at an estimated savings of $780,000 compared to the cost of traditional juvenile adjudication methods.
- Colonie, New York’s Youth Court is a nationally renowned model. From 1995-2003, the program heard 716 cases, with a 99% completion rate. They heard 400 cases involving petit larceny, the majority from a shopping mall. Oneida County Youth Court has the potential for similar success on a smaller level, especially with Sangertown Mall as well as local commercial hubs such as Wal-Mart and Consumer Square.
- On a broader level, people feel more positive about their future, their children's future and the overall future of the community when offenders are held accountable for their actions. This leads to a general feeling of security and hope for tomorrow.
- The Oneida County Youth Court program is diverse enough to tackle the problems of small rural communities, as we do in Camden and Waterville, as well as the larger urban areas such as Utica and Rome.
- Youth Court also fosters a healthy relationship between youth and adults. Youth and adults volunteers, (students and advisory board members), often work within the same circles to achieve the same goal. Also, adult victims are often made aware of the disposition and play a part of the process, thereby connecting them with both youth offenders and volunteers.
- Service Projects - Oneida County Youth Court remains an active presence throughout the community beyond the program itself as it partook in volunteer projects in Camden, Rome and Utica for the 2005 National Youth Service Day.
- Oneida County is demographically unique. Few other counties that see our economic and cultural diversity. Because of this, we have the incredible opportunity to serve as a model program for others around the state and nation as we target various urban and rural areas.
- The director was already contacted by one other city and county interested in our unique structure and inquiring as to how to follow our program’s example.
- Furthermore, very few programs hear both school and criminal offenses, an area where Oneida County Youth Court is ahead of virtually all programs.
- •Oneida County Youth Court has the opportunity to develop a comprehensive program that targets juvenile offenders in urban, suburban and rural areas.