Experts that Run Youth Jails want them closed Permanently

Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice Conference — April, 2019 at Columbia University

There is at least one in your state. Probably more.

When it comes to Juvenile Detention Centers…a new trend is actually emerging. The top Administrators that run such facilities throughout the country say they are nothing more than punitive prisons and should be shut down permanently.

Columbia University School of Social Work Conference

This newly formed group, known as “Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice” is doing something radical. They want to do away with their own industry all in the name of changing the fate of incarcerated Children. Gladys Carrion has served the City of New York, and State as Commissioner of Children and Family Services. She worked under three governors, and is a co-chair of this organization. I asked in effect, aren’t you putting yourself out of business.

“Absolutely putting ourselves out of business, but you know there is…we haven’t worked in running these systems I had the opportunity to run the state system in new york plus the city system. really understand that these systems don’t work for children. They do more harm than good. There are .better ways of doing this. yes we want to be out of the business of running youth prisons.” -Gladys Carrion, Co-Chair/Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice

“Their brutal, there expensive and very unsuccessful. But the voices of the people who run them has really not been part of that conversation. Today that’s changing.” -Vincent Schiraldi, Co-Chair/Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice

More Harm than Good

This group represented juvenile officials from 18 states….and gathered at Columbia University’s School of Social Work…meeting for a two day conference. Carrion knows something about shutting down Youth detention Centers. She closed 26 in New York State. She told me:

“Even young people that commit some egregious crime…there are better ways to deal with that behavior.” -Gladys Carrion, Co-Chair/Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice

The good news is that by the end of 2018, there were a little over 46,000 youths incarcerated nationwide, less than half the number behind bars 20 years ago. (Nationwide, there were as many as 109,000 children in juvenile facilities in the mid-1990s, according to the Columbia’s Justice Lab) However the 46,000 figure is also bad news. These officials want the number down to zero.

Former Commissioner Gladys Carrion. You can click on link to hear audio of interview
The TV Story Dominic Carter did on the Conference

Carrion while a New York State Commissioner ordered reforms that included new mental-health services at the juvenile prisons and limits on the use of physical force.

Officials say the recommended closings are about dollars and cents for the taxpayer. PLUS ending systemic maltreatment of incarcerated youth.

The average cost for housing one child in a juvenile prison is:


It’s even more in New York:


These officials want an approach that instead centers on small, home-like facilities in the young people’s own communities. The other co-chair of the group, Vincent Schiraldi oversaw the closure of youth prison in New York and Washington D.C.

“The fact that people that run America’s youth prisons, say we should get rid of America’s prisons…in many respects that contrary to their self interest, and their doing it because they believe it’s the right thing to do.” -Vincent Schiraldi, Co-Chair/Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice
Vincent Schiraldi. You can click on link to hear audio of interview

Huge Racial Disparity — “A System of Punishment”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation does a lot of work on the issue of children and puts a lot of resources into the issue. Nathaniel Balis deals with juvenile related matters for the Casey Foundation, and talked about race at such facilities.

Nathaniel Balis of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Click on link to hear Audio

“If you go into the detention center all what your basically going to see is black and latino males who are in the detention center.” -Nathaniel Balis of the Annie E. Casey Foundation

“If there’s one single thing that defines our youth justice system it’s the tremendous racial disparity. Young people are five times more likely to be incarcerated if they are black than white.” Nathaniel Balis of the Annie E. Casey Foundation

New York City has instituted a new program called Close to Home to keep children in custody close to New York City. …but violence broke out at the city’s new Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx just after it opened with officials frantically scrambling to get the teenage inmates under control. 20 officers were injured.

Mark Mertens is the Wisconsin Administrator for the Division of Youth and Family Services in the Milwaukee area, the city where Democrats are holding their national convention this year. He too attended the conference.

“Our Juvenile correctional system is a large, institution which has failed just like so many states before us.” -Mark Mertens/Wisconsin Administrator,Division of Youth and Family Services

Mark Mertens/Wisconsin Division of Youth and Family Services. You can click on link to hear audio of interview

“We’re in the middle of a federal civil rights suit around the treatment of youth in our large facility which is 4 and a half hours from Milwaukee.” -Mark Mertens/Wisconsin Administrator, Division of Youth and Family Services