As prepared for delivery
Testimony before the
New York City Council
Committee on Criminal Justice
Chair Keith Powers
Committee on Justice System
Chair Rory Lancman
William Barnes, Assistant Chief
NYC Department of Correction
December 3, 2019
Good morning, Chair Powers, Chair Lancman and members of the Committee on Criminal Justice and the Committee on Justice System. My name is William Barnes, and I am the Assistant Chief of Division IV of the Department of Correction. I appreciate this opportunity to update the Council on the Department’s efforts to support the Raise the Age mandate and discuss our transition out of the Horizon Juvenile Detention Center. The Department remains committed to providing a safe, stable environment for all those who live at work at Horizon and are proud to support ACS as they take over the primary responsibility for the safety and security of the young people at the Horizon facility.
Horizon opened its doors on September 27, 2018 and has always been jointly administered by the Department and ACS per the RTA Law. This has been an important and strategic partnership that enabled the Department to ensure the safety of youth and supporting ACS in its operations. Prior to the transfer of adolescents to Horizon, the Department oversaw important renovations to the building itself that aimed to create an overall deinstitutionalized feel within the facility. Throughout this renovation process, the
Department regularly liaised with the State Commission on Correction in order to achieve operational compliance in accordance with state guidelines.
Since beginning joint operations, Horizon offered the Department an opportunity to support the young people in our care in a manner more consistent with their developmental needs. In accordance with juvenile justice best practices, Horizon provides detained adolescents with living quarters that resemble a home-like setting rather than an adult institutional facility. The correction officers who staff Horizon have dedicated themselves to learning new practices, but also have been working hard to support ACS in creating a safe and secure environment for the young people in our care. For example, the officers received extensive training on the new Raise the Age policies, they were all trained on PREA standards for the youth offenders’ population and have all received thorough training on Safe Crisis Management.
Following thirteen months of joint operation, the Department will largely transfer out of Horizon in December of this year and remain solely to provide perimeter security, and manage the control room. The Department will also maintain an adolescent response team that will respond only to incidents involving pre-RTA youth. The Department is prepared to maintain staffing in this manner until the last pre-RTA youth leaves Horizon, which we are aiming for early fall of 2020. Following this departure, the Department will continue to support security operations at Horizon through annual inspections as required by the Raise the Age law.
In preparation for this transfer, the Department began working with ACS Youth Development Specialists (YDS) as early as June of this year. As part of this engagement, the Department coordinated with ACS to transfer knowledge on best practices and lessons learned throughout the operation of the facility over the past year. Since then, the
Department has ceded operational control of residential halls to ACS in a gradual manner beginning in September.
As part of the transition plan, Department staff assigned to Horizon have been transitioning to other posts on a rolling basis. There will be no layoffs as a result of the Department’s transition out of Horizon. Upon returning to a post at our adult facilities, Correction Officers will receive refresher training on adult correctional best practices.
As the Department prepares for the next phase of transition out of Horizon, which will involve a significant reduction in DOC staff and presence at the facility, I would like to thank Warden Pressley and all of the officers and non-uniform staff assigned to Horizon for their tireless effort and for their dedication to the young people in their care. After more than a century of treating 16-and 17-year-olds as adults, you were part of a monumental shift in correctional practice in New York City that will benefit young people for generations to come. Thank you for your hard work and your service.
Councilmember Powers, Councilmember Lancman, and members of the Criminal Justice and Justice System Committees, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you this morning. I will turn my colleague at ACS to continue the Administration’s testimony.