Thousands of young people are involved in the New York State juvenile justice system each year. It’s a patchwork of programs and facilities that costs the state and New York City over a billion dollars annually.

These are the stories of young people’s paths into what is often a confusing system; their experiences navigating the courts and in some cases, detention; and of their efforts to get back on track, finish school and go on to jobs or college.

Not all will succeed. Nearly two thirds will be re-arrested within two years. With young people 16 and older tried as adults in New York, many will wind up with permanent criminal records.

Advocates speak of a “school-to-prison pipeline” caused by harsh disciplinary policies and aggressive policing of youth in poor minority schools and neighborhoods. A disproportionate number of youth offenders are males of color. And though they make up a smaller portion of offenders, girls and LGBT youth face unique challenges of their own.

Efforts to reform the system include Governor Cuomo’s Close to Home initiative, which places some youth offenders from New York City in facilities in the city, where they can be closer to their families, rather than sending them upstate. But advocates want more to be done to keep young people out of the system in the first place, such as strengthening communities and improving urban public schools.

As you explore the stories on this website, we’d like to hear about your experiences with the juvenile justice system. Look for questions at the bottom of each story page and use the form to add your thoughts and ideas.

If you have any questions or comments you can contact us at [email protected]
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