Ushering in a more touchy-feely approach to juvenile delinquency, Mayor Bloomberg will make the city's Department of Juvenile Justice part of its child welfare agency. The announcement, which came in this afternoon's state of the city address, signals that the new administration intends to put fewer kids behind bars.
Currently 900 youths are held in detention centers, each at a cost of $215,000 per year, reported the NY Times. Some have only committed misdemeanors like theft. Starting immediately the city will make special efforts to ease up on juvenile offenders who aren't considered dangerous. Rather than sending them to jail, it will sometimes allow them to stay at home with their families and go to school, as long as they keep curfew, get good grades and stay out of trouble, city officials say. This type of approach, dubbed "community-based therapy," is gaining popularity as an alternative to putting kids in prison; some consider it the more developmentally sound option, but it's also a major cost-cutting measure.
In the past seven years the city has reduced the number of minors sent to jail by 56 percent, and it wants to keep bringing that number down. Still, Bloomberg says NY won't go soft on youth offenders who represent a risk to the public. “Make no mistake: there will be no coddling,” he asserted. “This is an anti-crime strategy based on real data, and we’ll measure results carefully.”