The city needs to change the way it treats teenagers locked up at Rikers Island or risk the continued waste of money and lives, according to a report the Cardozo Law School's Youth Justice Clinic is releasing Thursday.
On a typical day there are 500 inmates ages 16 and 17 behind bars at Rikers Island, according to the report. Around 90 percent of the youth who go to a city jail are re-arrested by the time they turn 28.
The adult-like correctional conditions can exacerbate mental health issues and increase the risk of recidivism, according to the report. Researchers suggested keeping youth in small groups, offering more therapy and eliminating the use of solitary confinement for younger inmates. Many other states use more therapeutic models as opposed to correctional models, according to the report.
“We are operating in the 19th century compared to a lot of other states and we quickly need to move into the 21st,” said Ellen Yaroshefsky, a Cardozo professor who runs the Youth Justice Clinic and led the research.
The city’s Board of Correction requested the study. The board is currently working on new rules for the use of solitary confinement.
The report comes a month after Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State speech and called for raising the age of criminal responsibility. New York is one of only two states where 16-year-olds are prosecuted as adults.