New York – Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced the creation of a Young Adult Bureau that will operate in the newly-formed Brooklyn Young Adult Court, in partnership with the Office of Court Administration and the Center for Court Innovation. The new specialized court – the first in New York State – will handle all misdemeanor cases of defendants between the ages 16 and 24, offering risk-needs assessments, counseling and services tailored to the specific requirements of that particular age group, including substance abuse, mental health, anger management, GED, vocational and internship programs.
District Attorney Thompson said, “Young adult offenders who enter the criminal justice system are at a higher risk of re-offending after being incarcerated. Many return to our society, not rehabilitated, but as hardened criminals.
Recognizing that, our Office, in partnership with the Center for Court Innovation, applied for a grant and created a specialized Brooklyn Young Adult Bureau that will offer young misdemeanor offenders who may be facing incarceration the appropriate help and services they may need to help set them on the right path and avoid a prison sentence. I would like to thank the U. S. Department of Justice for providing funding, the Center for Court innovation for their partnership in providing services, and the Office of Court Administration and our other partners in this endeavor for their commitment to making this smart prosecution initiative a reality.”
Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said, “This is one more example of the criminal justice system working together to implement an innovative approach to low-level criminal activity. By focusing on young adults charged with low-level offenses, this new court part seeks to identify the underlying problem that led these cases to come into court, and develop an age-appropriate solution to address that underlying problem. Research has shown that young people are more amenable to rehabilitation. Ensuring that these individuals are referred to appropriate services and programs will lower recidivism and help them go on to become productive, law-abiding adults. I applaud District Attorney Ken Thompson for his strong support of this program and his leadership in establishing a special bureau within his office that complements the new young adult court part.”
Director of Operations at the Center for Court Innovation Adam Mansky said, “The Brooklyn Young Adult Court represents a powerful shift in how the criminal justice system treats young adults. Bringing together all parties—the judge, Kings County District Attorney’s office, Brooklyn Defender Services, and Legal Aid Society—the Young Adult Court will use evidence-based decision-making to reduce unnecessary incarceration for young people and connect them to meaningful social services. The initiative expands on research indicating that targeted and tailored interventions for young adults – a group developmentally distinct from older adults—can significantly reduce recidivism and promote public safety.”
The District Attorney said that the Brooklyn Young Adult Court (BYAC) will begin operations at a dedicated court part in Brooklyn Criminal Court, located at 120 Schermerhorn Street. It will be presided over by Judge Craig S. Walker, under the leadership of Supervising Judge Michael Yavinsky and the overall supervision of Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks and will handle cases involving defendants between the ages of 16 to 24 who are charged with misdemeanors, with an eye toward expanding to low-level felonies in the future. The new Bureau will be headed by Bureau Chief Johanne Macajoux and consist of several assistant district attorneys, two paralegals and a Project Coordinator.
A ceremony to dedicate the new court part will be held on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 1 p.m. in Brooklyn Criminal Court, 120 Schermerhorn Street, 10th floor.
Funding for the BYAC was provided through a Smart Prosecution grant of $425,000 awarded last fall to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) by the United States Department of Justice to create and operate the first Young Adult Court in New York State, with the only other similar model in the country located in San Francisco.
The grant recognized that while 18- to 24-year-olds comprise just 10% of the U.S. population, they account for almost 30% of criminal arrests. Young adults are more likely to be sent to prison for violent and property crimes than any other age group and have the highest propensity of re-arrest and return to prison than any other age group. They are also victims of crimes at twice the rate of the general population and face more severe consequences from conviction and incarceration, such as problems in securing employment, education and housing.
Furthermore, studies show that young adults in this age group have brains that are not fully developed, which can lead them to make poor choices and struggle with impulse control. Those with histories of trauma, neglect, poverty, foster care, substance abuse, mental health needs and learning disabilities are even less likely to have healthy brain and psychological development and are more likely to engage in criminal behavior.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and its partners recognize that these young offenders require a new and individualized approach to prosecution to set them on the right path, decrease recidivism and enhance public safety. Achieving these objectives is the goal of the Brooklyn Young Adult Court.
The program will build on the model of the Red Hook Community Justice Center, where alternative sentencing and case-specific resolutions are being implemented successfully. The prosecution unit will work closely with a cross-agency team that will include CCI, the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, the Defense Bar, the New York Police Department and the Department of Probation to ensure defendants’ compliance. CCI will also conduct a formal impact evaluation and create technical assistance tools that could be adopted nationally.