Changes in the Juvenile Justice System

According to NY1, Mayor Bloomberg recently announced that starting next month, juveniles arrested in the city on the weekends will be taken before judges in Manhattan, to prevent youth from being held in jail for up to several days.

(Before this change, anyone under the age of sixteen arrested over the weekend had to wait until Monday to go before a judge, unlike individuals in the adult criminal system, where arraignments take place 365 days a year, day and night)

"At a press conference Monday, 'Ani' said she was 15 years old when she got arrested and detained in jail.

'It's not even safe in there,' said Ani.

Instead of quickly going before a judge, she said she stayed behind bars for three days."

As the article explains, Ani is a participant in QUEST, an alternative to detention program run by the Center for Court Innovation.

"The only reason I changed is because they were calling my house, calling my school, making sure I was on track. If not, I was going to go to jail," said Ani.

Which got me thinking...

Ani's quote reminded me that attention and follow-up, the perception that someone is paying attention, can affect people's actions when it comes to complying with a program and following court orders. For the roughly 1000 clients we handle each month, there are limits on the amount of time we can spend dealing with each individual. However, as we've assessed the cost/benefit ratio of various practices, we've discovered that placing a phone call or sending a letter the very first time any client fails to show up for an appointment has a real effect. To this day, it still shocks me, but it's often clear that one simple phone call can bring someone into compliance who had forgotten, blown off, or otherwise ignored their mandate.