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August 28, 2013

New program targets juvenile-justice system

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After that, the cases will either be disposed of or go into the court system.

REFORMS

The state has already taken steps toward juvenile-justice reform.

In the past two years, 18 upstate counties have spent about $3 million on community-based programs, such as family support, alternative house and respite care, the Department of Criminal Justice Services said in the release.

The governor may use input from the Youth Justice teams to help enact legislation aimed at improving the system, Green said.

Meanwhile, human-rights groups are calling for reform to the juvenile-justice system, saying New York is one of just two states that treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal-justice system.

Children who enter the adult system are more likely to fall victim to physical violence or suicide in prison, according to the Citizens’ Committee of New York, one of the agencies lobbying for the change.

While 50,000 16- and 17-year-olds are arrested in New York state each year, more than 75 percent of the crimes they are charged with are misdemeanors, according to the agency.

‘HIGH-NEED KIDS’

While it’s difficult to pinpoint why young people in the North Country turn to crime, some contributing factors may be poor social associations, drug usage or simply a lack of activities for them in the area, Marcoux said.

Many of the children whose cases are referred to the Probation Department require multiple services, he continued.

“A lot of kids that end up in probation .... they’re high-need kids.”

Whatever path a child’s case takes, the ultimate goal is rehabilitation, Marcoux said.

“I think placement should be the last resort.”

Juveniles who are put in detention centers will ultimately go back to the communities in which they committed crimes, he said, so positive changes in the homes, schools and communities are essential to maintaining public safety.

Marcoux said the North Country Regional Youth Justice Team plans to meet again in September.

Email Felicia Krieg: fkrieg@pressrepublican.comTwitter: @FeliciaKrieg

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