NYC Department of Juvenile Justice --
'Making a Difference for 20 Years: 1979-1999'

Excerpts of The History of the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice and DJJ Time Line taken (with permission) from its 20th Anniversary Commemorative Journal written and edited by Sarina Roffe, DJJ Director of Public Affairs.

Spofford Juvenile Center
The Department of Juvenile Justice, like so many city agencies, was created in response to an immediate need, specifically for juvenile detention services offered at Spofford Juvenile Center. . . . DJJ was charged with providing a safe, secure and humane environment for its residents. Moreover, by the late 1970s public sentiment towards adolescents involved with the judicial system had changed. Detention formerly administered solely for the purpose of punishment became an opportunity for the provision of services. . .

Virtual visit to DJJ exhibit at John Jay College.
Consequently, the Department was formed in response to both the need for a more responsible detention system and the desire to give the system's residents the opportunity to grow into productive members of society.

On July 1, 1979 the Department of Juvenile Justice was created and took control of Spofford, the city's only secure juvenile detention facility, in addition to a non-secure detention group home for male and female residents on Beach Avenue in the Bronx.

Beach Ave. Group Home

Within a few years of its creation, the agency found itself a leader in the relatively new field of juvenile justice. In the words of an early departmental report, the agency recognized that "while the judicial problems of these children may end upon release from detention, their personal, educational and social problems do not." With this understanding the department began a voluntary aftercare program for youth released from detention in 1983. The program (which served 623 clients in Fiscal Year 1998) offered former residents a case manager to help them succeed in school and attend to their family, health and emotional needs.

In addition, the department took steps to help at-risk youth avoid the juvenile justice system altogether. In 1993, the Department founded the Reduce Children's Violence (RCV) program to turn youths away from delinquency and toward a positive direction. The wide range of potential problems the program addresses indicates its sophistication. Youth involved in the RCV program receive anger management training, learn to resolve conflicts and mediate disputes. In addition RCV assists with summer jobs, provides leadership training and organizes voluntary community improvement projects. This year the department launched Project Confirm, an initiative designed to identify foster care children in the juvenile justice system and prevent unnecessary detention of young people with low level charges.

Horizon Juvenile Center
As the Department added to its array of programs and services, it has also expanded its facilities to more effectively meet the changing needs of the New York Community. In 1989 the agency was able to open a non-secure detention facility for female clients on West 145th St., a move which allowed the agency to devote the Beach Avenue facility to males only. And in the past year the agency opened two state-of-the-art detention facilities -- Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx and Crossroads Juvenile Center in Brooklyn -- and closed Spofford for renovations.

Now, as the Department of Juvenile Justice reflects on the accomplishments of 20 years, the renovations on Spofford near completion. It is, perhaps, fitting that the two events coincide. The building that once embodied all that was wrong with juvenile detention, has been given new purpose (it will serve as an intake and transfer facility only) and a new look.

In much the same way, the department has renovated juvenile justice in New York. It has added secure and non-secure detention facilities, while extending its aid beyond the confines of their walls. Throughout the course of twenty years the department has been able to balance the demands of public safety with the belief that every child -- even those who have found trouble -- can succeed.

DJJ Time Line

1979 -- Paul Strasburg is the first Commissioner of the agency.

The NYC Dept. of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is created. DJJ is given responsibility for secure and non-secure detention. The agency operates Spofford Juvenile Center, the city's sole secure detention center for juveniles. Juvenile Offenders, newly classified under the Juvenile Offender Act of 1978, are placed under the jurisdiction of DJJ. The agency also operated a non-secure detention group home for male and female residents on Beach Avenue in the Bronx.

1983 -- Ellen Schall is the second Commissioner of DJJ.

DJJ begins a voluntary aftercare program for youth released from detention.

1984 -- In Schall vs. Martin, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the preventive detention of juveniles to protect against future crimes is a legitimate state action.
1989 -- New York City Board of Estimate approves the construction of two secure juvenile detention facilities. The architects are Kaplan McLaughlin and Diaz.

DJJ opens a non-secure detention facility for female residents on West 145th Street in Manhattan. Beach Avenue becomes a male-only facility.

1990 -- Rose Washington becomes the third Commissioner of DJJ.
1994 -- José Maldonado is appointed the fourth Commissioner of DJJ.

DJJ creates the Reduce Children's Violence Program. This is the Agency's first delinquency prevention program.

1996 -- Marta Moczo-Santiago is named Commissioner of DJJ.
1998 -- Tino Hernandez is named Commissioner of DJJ.

Tino Hernandez

American Correctional Association awards its Exemplary Offender Program Award to DJJ's Aftercare program.

DJJ opens Horizon Juvenile Center, located at 560 Brook Avenue in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx on January 18 and Crossroads Juvenile Center, located at 17 Bristol Street in Brownsville, Brooklyn on August 1.

All residents are transferred out of Spofford Juvenile Center on August 1. The agency also opens an Admissions/Intake Center at the Vernon C. Bain Center on June 27 as a temporary measure to address population surges.

1999 -- DJJ launches Project Confirm, in cooperation with the Vera Institute of Justice, the NYC Administration for Children's Services and the NYC Department of Probation to identify foster care children in the system and prevent unnecessary detention of young people with low level charges.

The Reduce Children's Violence Program (RCV) is expanded under a grant from the NYC Housing Authority into precincts with housing projects. The Aftercare Program triples in size due ot a federal grant.

DJJ renovates three wings of Spofford as an Admissions/Intake facility and as a transfer point for state-ready youth. The building is scheduled to reopen in late 1999.

Timeline Of Juvenile Detention In New York City from the founding of the New York Society for the Prevention of Pauperism in 1816.
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