Use of force by staff against youth offenders continues to rise

December 3, 2019 Noah Goldberg
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Incidents of staff using force against youth in detention at the two city facilities that hold minors continue to rise, according to statistics released Tuesday.

Offenders under the age of 18 are held at either the Crossroads Juvenile Center in Brownsville or the Horizon Detention Center in the Bronx, where underage detainees were transferred from Rikers Island in October 2018. At both facilities, run by the Administration for Children’s Services, use of force incidents against the incarcerated population have been rising.

“When it comes to use of force … the numbers are going in the wrong direction,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman at a City Council oversight hearing Tuesday morning. “The statistics are not good.”

At Brownsville’s Crossroads, use of force incidents soared to 396 between July 1 and Sept. 30 of 2019. The quarter before, there were 357 use of force incidents, and 247 and 227 the two quarters before that, respectively.

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At Horizon in the Bronx, there were 181 use of force incidents in the most recent quarter, up from 133 the quarter before and 99 the quarter before that.

“The most recent quarter, which was posted at 9 a.m. this morning covering July through September of 2019, the number is up to 181, going in the wrong direction in dramatic fashion,” Lancman said Tuesday.

“The safety of youth and our staff in detention is a top priority. As part of the implementation of Raise the Age, both Horizon and Crossroads Juvenile Detention Centers have been undergoing periods of transition which is, in part, why we have been taking a number of steps to enhance safety, including: staff training on crisis prevention and de-escalation techniques, the implementation of a new behavior management system and more,” a spokesperson for ACS told the Brooklyn Eagle in a statement.

The Department of Correction was largely responsible for safety at Horizon, but has been transitioning out of the facility with ACS taking a more active role.

Use of force incidents do not necessarily result in injury. Any instance in which staff have to use physical restraint on detainees is marked as a use of force incident and has to be investigated.

Charles Parkins, the deputy associate commissioner for detention services with ACS, testified that a significant number of the use of force incidents were caused by “a small percentage of the youth who have some significant challenges and require additional attention.”

During the first half of 2019, 17 detainees at Horizon were involved in 225 uses of force.

Of the 396 uses of force in the most recent quarter at Crossroads, 12 resulted in the injury of a youth in custody. None of those injuries were serious, according to the statistics.

A total of 1,162 underage New Yorkers were held at Horizon or Crossroads during the 2019 fiscal year. Each facility has 106 beds. As of Nov. 21, there were 80 youth being held at Crossroads and 37 being held at Horizon.

The upward trends at the youth detention centers mirrored similar upward trends in use of force at the city’s jails for adults.

The rate of use of force by Department of Correction staff against incarcerated individuals has more than tripled at Brooklyn’s city jail since 2015, according to statistics released last month by the federal monitor of the city’s jails.

Update (5:38 p.m.): This article has been updated to include relevant statistics as well as a quote from a spokesperson for the Administration for Children’s Services. 

Correction (Dec. 4 at 10:05 p.m.): This article has been updated with more accurate information on how many beds are at Horizon and Crossroads. The facilities each have 106 beds, not 150. 

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