State Sen. Daniel Squadron appears to be cutting his potential public advocate teeth with a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Administration for Children's Services Commissioner Ronald E. Richter regarding the embattled Close to Home program.
Squadron is one of the leading candidates in this year's public advocate race.
The Close to Home program is intended to place nonviolent juvenile offenders in group homes near their families rather than in upstate prison facilities. The aim is to reduce recidivism, but several of the youths in the program have been able to run away from the home and gotten rearrested, adding further charges to their rap sheets and ending up with longer and more severe sentences.
In his letter, Squadron emphasizes the potential of the program, arguing that with better resources, the initiative could result in long-term positive change to the juvenile justice system in New York City.
A Queens family court judge recently noted the need for a more resources, as well as better communication between the agencies involved — the NYPD and ACS, which responsible for supervising the group homes.
"Common sense would seen to dictate that additional resources be allocated to locate and apprehend these youth," Judge John Hunt wrote.
Hunt lamented that since the program's start in September 2012, after the initiative was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, "there appears to have been no additional law enforcement or social services resources committed to locating juvenile delinquents who go AWOL, nor any effective solution to stop the torrent of juvenile delinquents who escape from Close to Home initiative placements."
In September 2012, ACS started placing juvenile offenders in non-security facilities. Plans are reportedly in place for limited-secury facility placements this fall.
In his letter, Squadron notes that there are only five detectives in the entire city tasked with finding escaped juveniles. A single detective must look for 15 to 20 juveniles at any given time, Squadron said.
Squadron's letter is available in full below.
Note: The letter was sent from Squadron's state Senate office, not as part of his public advocate campaign.
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