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Brooklyn DA’s office announces creation of new Young Adult Bureau

Will Handle Misdemeanor Cases Against Defendants Ages 16-24; First Such Court in New York State and Second in the Nation Funded by DOJ Grant

May 6, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson on Friday 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.
“Young adult offenders who enter the criminal justice system are at a higher risk of re-offending after being incarcerated,” said Thompson. “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.”

Thompson thanked the U. S. Department of Justice, which provided funding; the Center for Court Innovation, which is providing services; and the Office of Court Administration.
“This is one more example of the criminal justice system working together to implement an innovative approach to low-level criminal activity,” remarked Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks. “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,” Marks continued. “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.”
Thompson said that the Brooklyn Young Adult Court (BYAC) will begin operations at a dedicated court part in Brooklyn Criminal Court, located at 120 Schermerhorn St. 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. BYAC will handle cases involving defendants between the ages of 16 and 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.

“The Brooklyn Young Adult Court represents a powerful shift in how the criminal justice system treats young adults,” said Director of Operations at the Center for Court Innovation Adam Mansky. “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. 

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“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,” Mansky added.
A ceremony to dedicate the new court part was scheduled for Friday.

Funding for the BYAC was provided through a Smart Prosecution grant of $425,000, awarded last fall to the Brooklyn DA’s Office and the Center for Court Innovation by the U.S. 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 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost 30 percent 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 DA’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 BYAC.
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 NYPD 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.

—Information from the Brooklyn DA’s Office


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