PIX11 News was granted rare access Thursday inside the Crossroads Juvenile Detention Center in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
The teens at Crossroads come from all five boroughs and are accused of serious crimes, but they are too young to go to the Rikers Island Jail as they await trial.
“We are not their judge and jury,” explained Louis Watts, the executive director of Crossroads. “Our job as human service agents is to be able to service our young people.”
The city’s youth detention centers have faced scandal after scandal in the last few years, with accusations of physical and sexual abuse. Thursday, the city tried to paint a very different image, showing PIX11 newly renovated units, motivational sessions and literature classes.
“Juveniles should be treated as juveniles. Young people should be treated as young people,” David Hansell, the commissioner for the Administration for Children’s Services, said. "We in New York are on the cusp of one of the most far reaching and progressive reforms in juvenile justice in decades and that’s Raise the Age.”
Before Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Raise the Age legislation last year, 16 and 17 year olds were automatically prosecuted as adults in city jails. But in less than six weeks, 16 and 17 year old on Rikers Island will be moved to a city detention center in the Bronx, much like Crossroads.