Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Alternatives to Detention

I spent the better part of this morning at the Vera Institute of Justice attending a meeting about New York City's new alternative to detention program for young people in Family Court on delinquency charges.  Vera is helping to coordinate the project, which, when it is fully implemented, will include after-school/monitoring programs in each borough.  

Our role has been to plan and implement the Queens program (QUEST) and to help provide the technology that all of the programs will ultimately use.  The early results (less than a year into the project) have been encouraging: a reduction in the use of detention by Family Court judges (and when detention is being used, it is targeted more directly to high-risk juveniles) and low rates of re-arrests among participating young people.   

More globally, the whole enterprise feels like the best kind of public policy-making: the strategic deployment of limited resources, the creation of a multi-faceted partnership among various government agencies (the Mayor's Office, Family Court, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Probation, Corp. Counsel, etc) and non-profits (us, Vera, CASES and others), and the rigorous use of data to both analyze the problem and assess the effectiveness of the attempted solution.  I left feeling proud to be a part of it.