Juvenile offenders are now living within the five boroughs and attending schools here after years of serving time upstate. The Close to Home initiative transfers the majority of young offenders to the city's control from the state. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in Brooklyn Thursday to highlight the program. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Jim St. Jermain was headed for trouble.
"A young kid from the 'hood, Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Nostrand Avenue, making bad decisions," he said.
He ended up in the criminal justice system as a minor. Instead of being sent to a juvenile justice center upstate, he landed in a program that allowed him to remain in New York City.
"The recidivism rate for the kids who go upstate is over 80 percent," St. Jermain said. "So most of the kids who go to upstate New York, they get abused by the staff and they don't get the help that they need. And they are 10 hours away from their families, so their families can't really visit them."
The city has now begun the Close to Home program, which houses non-violent juvenile offenders to remain in home-like environments located within the five boroughs.
"Today, thanks to Close to Home, there are 60 young people who have been placed in non-secure residential facilities and will be able to continue their education here in the city," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "By the end of the year, we hope to have a total of 300 similarly-placed youths."
The mayor was at Passages Academy in Brooklyn Thursday, one of five sites where particpants in the Close to Home program will attend school.
The Close to Home bill passed the legislature in a marathon overnight session in Albany last March, along with a number of other significant pieces of the legislation. Close to Home was a priority for New York city lawmakers.
"Families were not part of the rehabilition process and the city is going to make families part of rehabilitation," said Ronald Richter, the commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children's Services. "We think we are going to be more successful because of that and because children are going to get accredited education while they are in placement with us."
St. Jermain graduated college and is headed to law school.
"Most of the kids you see in the streets doing bad things, they're not bad kids," he said. "They just make bad decisions because they come from dysfunctional households with single mothers."
The city began contracting with nonprofit groups for the Close to Home program last month.