Sunset Park — A program to help teenage offenders avoid jail was the topic of a public hearing held by the City Council’s Juvenile Justice Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez.
Gonzalez and the committee examined the Positive Alternative Toward Home (PATH) program sponsored by the city’s Division of Youth and Family Justice. The hearing took place on Jan. 24.
The PATH project is an electronic monitoring program for juvenile offenders in Manhattan. It is a pilot program that began in April. Under the program, youths can avoid jail by agreeing to have an electronic monitor placed on them to track their movements.
The monitor remains on the young offender until his or her case is adjudicated.
Only youths who qualify for PATH can participate in the program, according to Gonzalez, who said a judge has to approve an offender’s participation.
The Division of Youth and Family Justice sponsors PATH in cooperation with the criminal court, the New York County district attorney’s office, and the Legal Aid Society.
Gonzalez said she is generally supportive of the program for a variety of reasons.
“Detention has been found to negatively impact youth and the decision to detain a youth pending trial can have serious, long-term consequences for the youth’s future,” Gonzalez said. “Research suggests that the experience of detention increases the likelihood that the youth will continue to engage in delinquent behavior and recidivate, which is detrimental to the youth and public safety.”
New York State Supreme Court Justice Eduardo Padro, who oversees the PATH program, was among the experts who testified at the hearing. Justice Padro described PATH as a good tool to provide juvenile offenders with an alternative to jail.
The purpose of the hearing was to gather information about the program, Gonzalez said.
Specifically, the committee was interested in learning how many youths participated in the program and what the outcomes of their cases were, the councilwoman said.
Laurence Busching, executive director of the Division of Youth and Family Justice, testified that since PATH began, 16 youths have been referred to the program. There are currently seven youths enrolled. The Division of Youth and Family Justice conducts exit interviews with the youths and their families and also follows up with them three months later, Busching said.
The agency is discussing with judges and district attorneys whether to expand the PATH program throughout the five boroughs.
“We have found that alternative programs are succeeding in lowering recidivism rates. With the support of eminent jurists like the Honorable Eduardo Padro, I am encouraged to believe we can improve outcomes for youth who have deviated from their character and put them back on the path to being productive members of society,” Gonzalez said.
— Paula Katinas