City child welfare authorities’ rules for sending kids back to juvenile detention have “no force of law,” a judge found in a decision that defense attorneys predicted will help other youths.
The Administration for Children’s Services presides over hearings on revoking “aftercare” — the equivalent of parole for children in the juvenile justice system.
But Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead ruled last week the internal agency policies the city has been operating off for several years aren’t acceptable.
“All we ever asked for is a fair and lawful process to consider whether a youth’s parole should be revoked,” Clay Capp, a Legal Aid attorney, said Monday. “This decision reaffirms that under our law, the government cannot arbitrarily incarcerate a youth.”
The judge said rules on sending kids back into custody must come from the state Office of Children and Family Services. But ACS has relied on its own policies in recent years after a law change in 2012 that requires youthful offenders to be held in city custody so that they’re “close to home.”
The Legal Aid Society argued that the lack of state rules created an unfair situation for its young clients in fateful decisions about their freedom. The defenders now plan to challenge other cases from recent years.
One Teen’s Story
Edmead’s ruling stemmed from the case of 16-year-old Manhattan boy who was ordered back to a youth facility after he broke his curfew and missed a caseworker appointment — both required after he served a year for possession of a stolen purse.
ACS said those were grounds for revoking his aftercare, according to court filings. The agency’s request was granted by a hearing officer and the boy went back to a juvenile detention facility for two months.
Edmead’s ruling effectively annulled ACS’ decision. That means the 16-year-old, whose name is being withheld to protect his privacy, will no longer have the aftercare revocation on his record, though he already served the time.
“This decision feels really good,” the teen said in a statement. “I know they did not only do this to me, and this now helps other people too. The judge agreed they were doing things the wrong way, and now they will have to do it the right way. My freedom is important to me.”
The state Office of Children and Family Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ACS referred THE CITY to the city’s Law Department, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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