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Close to Home program still plagued with problems STATEN ISLAND — The results of misguided juvenile justice policies were once again highlighted after three girls went missing on Christmas night while in the care of a nonprofit residential center for troubled youths. Though all the girls, from a facility in a Staten Island once run by the state Office of Children and Family Services, have been returned safely, many people are again raising questions about security at the facility and others like it across the city and the “Close to Home” initiative. Continued concerns Two years after the Close to Home program began and with a proposal under consideration in Albany to raise the adult criminal age to 18, there is concern that more youthful offenders coming into an already troubled system could lead to greater problems and public safety issues. According to the Staten Island Advance, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), contracts with nine service providers to run 31 Close to Home facilities across the city, including the Staten Island residential center where the girls live. The Advance also reported that resident escapes, like the ones from Staten Island Close to Home on Christmas, have plagued the program since its inception in 2012, and precipitated the shuttering of at least one of Staten Island’s other Close to Home facilities. Stephen’s House in Staten Island’s Stapleton section was closed in June 2013, the same month that a 17-year-old resident was charged in the stabbing death of another teen while AWOL from the facility. Failed policy Despite scathing reports about the abysmal failure of the Close to Home juvenile “reform” program, it continues to divert youthful offenders from state juvenile justice facilities to inadequate New York City-based startup programs. CSEA has repeatedly expressed concerns about the Close to Home program, “It is outrageous to disregard public safety, including the well being of the youths, and make a bad situation worse.” noting that the state’s transferring of juveniles from state facilities to ill-prepared private providers leave the youths and communities at risk. In 2013, Queens Family Court Judge John Hunt called the initiative “a threat to public safety” after court documents exposed repeated failures with the program, including a lack of security so bad that youthful offenders were able to walk away at will. At one point, 50 youths in the program (about one in four) were missing at the same time. “It is outrageous to disregard public safety, including the well being of the youths, and make a bad situation worse,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said in 2013. “It CSEA has repeatedly expressed concern about misguided policies putting staff, youths and the public at risk. makes no sense whatsoever to put dangerous individuals back into the very neighborhoods where they got in trouble in the first place without any evidence that they will be properly supervised.” CSEA strongly supports efforts to help turn around the lives of youthful offenders through appropriate programs in safe and secure settings, with qualified staff who have adequate resources to provide the services. — David Galarza Keep up-to-date on the latest news from your union! • Like CSEA Local 1000 on Facebook! • Follow CSEA Local 1000 on Twitter! 6 The Work Force February 2015


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