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The Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx is being fortified before 16- and 17-year-old detainees from Rikers Island move in. Credit: Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

The Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx is being fortified before 16- and 17-year-old detainees from Rikers Island move in. Credit: Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

OPINION

Youth Justice in New York

A career prosecutor outlines various needed reforms.

Sept. 28, 2018

To the Editor:

Re “7 Key Questions as the City Transfers Teenagers Under 18 From Rikers Island Jails” (news article, Sept. 28):

On Oct. 1, New York will recognize the obvious: Teenagers warrant different consideration in the criminal justice system from adults.

Given the now well-known correlation between race, poverty and incarceration, the “Raise the Age” law is only one in a long line of desperately needed changes, including rethinking the length, location and conditions of criminal sentences.

Fifty-thousand people remain in New York’s prisons, and 40 percent of those released this year will be reincarcerated within three years.

As a career prosecutor who teaches in prison, I call upon the criminal justice community to envision and carry out drastic change: expansion of alternatives to incarceration to address even violent crime; a reimagining of the conditions of confinement; and wraparound services for everyone re-entering our communities.

We must identify innovative ways to maintain historically low crime rates while prioritizing accountability for offenders, without relying on an antiquated, unequal and dehumanizing prison model.

Lucy Lang
New York
The writer is executive director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.

Link to article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/28/opinion/letters/youth-new-york-prisons.html