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Testimony of Kathleen O'Boyle

Deputy Director, the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA)
Before the New York City Council
Executive Budget Hearings

May 27, 2003

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council on behalf of the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) and the Center for Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES). My name is Kathleen O'Boyle and I am the Deputy Director of CCA. CCA and CASES operate alternative to incarceration programs supported by government agencies and foundations. My testimony today is on services to youth involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems that are funded by the City Council. I have led and managed ATI services for young people in this city since 199(?)

Most young people in the juvenile justice system are there as a result of failures in social policies and programs. Our education, welfare, housing, foster care, shelter and other programs have failed them. Special education has become a track to the courts. We know that the best place to learn how to be a better criminal is in jail or prison. ATI programs for youth are cost efficient, safe and more just. For example, in fiscal year 2002, 63% of the youth served by CCA successfully completed the year-long program and remained in the community rather than being placed in OCFS facilities. Though we do not have complete data for this current fiscal year, which will end on June 30 th , we have already surpassed our intake quota in Family Court and of the 20 JDs who exited the program since last July 1 st , 8 completed the program successfully and only 1 of them exited due to rearrest. CASES participants in detention at the time of arraignment, completed their Court Employment Program at a 54% rate last fiscal year, exceeding their contractual goal of 50%. Those at liberty at the time of arraignment completed at 74%, exceeding their contractual goal by nearly 20%.

CCA and CASES enter the lives of young people who are in a time of crisis. We help to divert youth from the juvenile and criminal justice systems, while protecting public safety at less than one-tenth the cost of the $130,162 per year it costs to keep a young offender in a Department of Juvenile Justice facility. More importantly, we help youth to turn their lives around and avoid the cycle of recidivism which amounts to serving a life sentence on the installment plan.

I think of Jose who entered our program three years ago. He was mandated as an alternative to serving 7-10 years for first degree robbery. He has described himself as "coming in with a grimey attitude." He received individualized counseling, strength-based programs, intensive case management, court advocacy, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse prevention and education. Through home and school visits, electronic curfew monitoring and family meetings, our case managers monitored his progress and responded to his needs through community-based referrals for additional services. He stayed in the program for a year forming strong relationships with peers and adults, discovering creative talents within himself and gaining support in solving problems he had faced in school and at home. As his year was coming to an end, he opted to receive rigorous training as an HIV/AIDS prevention peer educator. He volunteered for a year at CCA as a peer educator. Next month he graduates from high school and plans to start Brooklyn College in the fall. He is a changed person who serves as a mentor to many young people entering our program.

This is one example but there are hundreds of young people like him at CCA and CASES who are overcoming enormous obstacles. They have incredible abilities and talents that have allowed them to survive their socioeconomic circumstances. When they are willing to trust and work with adults who show them care and concern, lives change and our communities grow safer, healthier and more just. The ATI group's written testimony covers the collateral consequences of incarceration to individuals, their families and their communities. These consequences are at their highest for young people who have their entire adult lives ahead of them.

I recognize that we are currently facing a fiscal crisis unsurpassed in recent history and that the Council will soon be forced to make very difficult funding decisions. With this in mind, I join with my fellow ATI providers in underscoring the immense savings in terms of human potential and the immediate cost savings of ATI jail displacement time .