Limited federal oversight looks likely to return to New York City’s Horizon Juvenile Center, a move that comes a few months after the city phased responsibility for some kids at the center out of the hands of its Department of Correction.
The Bronx detention facility, which mostly houses teens awaiting trial, lost its independent federal monitor in July when the city completed the shift of its operations to its child welfare agency, the Administration for Children’s Services.
The monitoring is part of the so-called Nunez lawsuit settlement between the city and the feds, following findings of abuse and unnecessary use of force by Department of Correction officers at many of its jails and detention centers.
Several of the juveniles at Horizon had been the responsibility of correctional staff, because they were previously held in the notorious adult jail on Rikers Island. After a new state law barred 16 and 17 year-olds from that facility, they were moved to the youth-only Horizon in late 2018. All of those young people have now aged out, or been released or transferred from Horizon.
The handover of Horizon to the child welfare agency puts the remaining youth there into the care of professionals who work for an agency that is supposed to be oriented toward rehabilitation rather than incarceration and punishment.
When correction officers were no longer needed at Horizon, leaving only Administration for Children’s Services staff, federal oversight ended. But high levels of violence have remained a concern at Horizon, although it appears to have fallen off sharply very recently. To be sure any progress is sustained, the monitor sought to keep eye on Horizon for the next year or two.
On Friday, the Administration for Children’s Services agreed to a more limited federal oversight scheme at Horizon than the broad supervision that had been in place previously.
If the judge signs off on Friday’s agreement, federal overseer Steve Martin’s team may re-enter the Horizon facility to ensure that staff levels are sufficient, juveniles are not mistreated with painful physical holds, kids get the social services they’re entitled to and that video recordings of violent incidents are preserved, according to the agreement. The child welfare agency is expected to make sure that the old, high levels of violence between staff and detainees at Horizon don’t return.
According to the most recent available city data, the average daily population for New York City’s two juvenile lockups was 95 in September. One of them is not subject to the court monitor’s oversight. How many youths are in each site is not specified in the city data.