Julia L. Davis, Esq., Member of Jails Action Coalition Pens Letter to BOC ref: Children in the ESH

10 Jul Julia L. Davis, Esq., Member of Jails Action Coalition Pens Letter to BOC ref: Children in the ESH

2017-07-10-Ltr-to-BOC-re-ESH-Variance-Julia-Davis

Derrick D. Cephas, Acting Chair
NYC Board of Correction
1 Centre Street, Room 2213
New York, New York 10007

July 10, 2017

RE: The Department of Correction’s July 7, 2017 Renewed Variance Requests Seeking to
Continue Placing Young Adults in Enhanced Supervision Units and Comingling
Young Adults with Older Inmates (Minimum Standards Section 1-02(c)(1) and
Section 1-16(c)(1)(ii))

Dear Mr. Cephas:
I write to you as a member of the Jails Action Coalition. When the Board promulgated
Minimum Standards Sections 1-02(c)(1) and 1-16(c)(1)(ii), it recognized the consensus that young
adults are different from older inmates. As I testified before the Board in December 2014, and as
many others impressed upon you and your fellow board members, young adults in our City jails have
increased vulnerabilities. They also have unique needs for developmentally-appropriate
environments, services and treatments that respond to their age. Sections 1-02(c)(1) and 1-
16(c)(1)(ii) recognized and codified these critical differences between young adults and older
incarcerated people, requiring the Department to house young adults separately and apart from older
inmates, to serve them with necessary programming, and to exclude them from placement in
Enhanced Supervision Housing (ESH).
Despite this, the Department has sought and obtained variances since the fall of 2016 to
retreat from the approach the Board embraced, placing 18-21 year olds in ESH, and comingling 19-
21 year olds with older inmates in the general population and in ESH. The Department comes before
you again to renew its requests and continue this course. While the decreases in violence that the
Department has reported are laudable, I write to respectfully share my concerns about these variance
requests and their impact on young adults’ access to services and programming, and their being
housed with older inmates.
The Lack of Data Showing Rates of Actual Utilization of Mandatory Services, Education and
Programming Among Young Adults in ESH Raises Concerns About the Appropriateness of
ESH for Youth 18-21.
According to the Department, the purpose of ESH is not merely to reduce violence; “[t]he
success of [its] rehabilitative and educational efforts for the young adults, particularly those in the
most restrictive housing units such as … ESH, is dependent upon establishing an atmosphere
conducive to learning and engagement.”1 Despite its promise to “continue to monitor and track
metrics and trends related to … utilization of programming and educational services,”2 the
1 Feb. 9, 2017 DOC Request for Variance Renewal, at 4.
2 Id. at 5.

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Department has not provided data demonstrating compliance with the Minimum Standards governing
access to mandated services, nor complete information about actual program participation.3
No information about the actual provision of health and mental health services to young
adults in ESH was included in the Department’s evaluation report.4
While the Department reported the total number of mandated services “provided” to young
adults within ESH, such raw counts5 are difficult to interpret and do not show whether these services
were delivered to all youth placed in ESH in compliance with the Minimum Standards. For example,
according to the Department, older youth in ESH are entitled to 3 hours of DOE educational services
per day, 5 days per week.

6 However, the Department has not indicated what number and proportion
of youth in ESH go to school daily, and whether they receive the full 3 hours to which they are
entitled.
7
Regarding age-appropriate programming, the Department reports the number of “offerings”
(undefined in the report).

8 The program percentages included in the Department’s report (see
“Programs” table on page 37) are not explained. This does not provide sufficient information to
determine whether youth in ESH are actually engaging with and receiving the programming intended
for them.
This lack of information is concerning as the Department has stated that ESH is not a
punitive housing unit, but intended to function as a therapeutic setting appropriate to meet the needs
of young adults. Based on the Department’s intake reporting, most of the youth placed in ESH had
not obtained a high school diploma or equivalency (20/25), most had a history of substance use
(17/22), and more than a quarter (6/22) reported a history of trauma.9 Nearly two-thirds of young
adults placed in ESH had mental health conditions requiring treatment (based on Brad H. settlement
criteria).
10
Considering the needs of the youth placed in ESH, as well as the restrictive nature of the
setting, reliably monitoring and ensuring that all youth are obtaining services and care is critical. This
is especially important because the Department has acknowledged that lockdowns have disrupted
access to services in the unit.11 And, the Department does not have the means to measure whether it
is meeting the Minimum Standards for lock-in/lock-out times for young adults placed in ESH.
12 The
3 June 2017, DOC Evaluation of Enhanced Supervision Housing for Young Adults, at 4 and 22. 4 Id. at 22, fn. 14. 5 June 2017, DOC Evaluation of Enhanced Supervision Housing for Young Adults, at 22 and 38 (Minimum
Standards and Services “Service Requests” Table). 6 Feb. 14, 2017, DOC Young Adults in Enhanced Supervision Housing, at 2 and 7 (referring to 3 hours of DOE
educational services and 4 hours of DOC programming available daily).
7 The Department reports that “27 inmates were involved with schooling”, see June 2017, DOC Evaluation of
Enhanced Supervision Housing for Young Adults, at 22.
8 June 2017, DOC Evaluation of Enhanced Supervision Housing for Young Adults, at 22 (referring to programming
“offered”). Data on actual participation for youth comingled with older inmates is available for only 2 programs:
IDOLS and Counseling/“Cage your Rage”, see id. at 23. Without clear definitions of what “participated” or
“offerings” mean in this context, it is impossible to interpret these data.
9 Id. at 20. 10 Id. at 15. 11 Id. at 20, 22, 23. 12 Id. at 33.

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absence of information assuring the Board that young adults in ESH are actually receiving the
mandated services in compliance with the Minimum Standards, and engaging in evidence-based
programming, compromises the Board’s ability to make an informed judgment about the
Department’s variance requests permitting young adults to be placed in ESH.
Comingling of 19-21 Year Olds With Older Incarcerated People in General Population and

ESH Raises Concerns About Implementing the Young Adult Reform Plan and Delivering Age-
Appropriate Programming Required by the Minimum Standards.

The purpose of dedicated young adult housing units was to create environments better
tailored to youths’ needs, staffed with officers trained to supervise older youth, and to make delivery
of age-appropriate programming more feasible operationally. According to the Department, currently
half of young adults are housed in a comingled setting.13 The comingling of young adults with older
inmates poses risks to creating and maintaining the kind of developmentally-appropriate settings that
young adults need, and making it potentially difficult to deliver the programming and services to
which they are entitled under the Minimum Standards Section 1-02(c)(2).
These concerns are only amplified in the ESH setting, where the Department now houses
young adults with older “highly violent inmates.”14 This raises serious concerns about the ability of
the Department to protect young adults, engage youth in programming and promote positive social
development. Notably, the Department’s report indicates that the rates of violence among young
adults in ESH has not universally decreased. Some violent incidents and infractions have increased
among young adults placed in ESH (including mixed-age units).

15 This suggests that co-mingling
young adults with older inmates in ESH may not have the same violence prevention effect that it
does in other housing units.
Further, the Department has not reported on how comingling has impacted its ability to
engage youth in targeted youth-centered programming and deliver mandated services like education
in all mixed-aged housing units. The Department’s Presentation to the Board on the Young Adult

Plan does not address this issue. The variance renewal request simply states that “[w]ithin co-
mingled units young adults are receiving programming through our adult programming division.”16

The lack of information assuring the Board that young adults placed with older inmates throughout
the jails are actually receiving the mandated services in compliance with the Minimum Standards,

and engaging in evidence-based programming, undermines the Board’s ability to make a fully-
informed decision about the Department’s comingling request.

I appreciate your consideration of these concerns.
Respectfully submitted,
Julia L. Davis, Esq.
Member of Jails Action Coalition

 

13 July 3, 2017 DOC Variance Renewal Request, at 2. 14 June 2017, DOC Evaluation of Enhanced Supervision Housing for Young Adults, at 24. 15 See id. (Rates of Use of Force (Minor Injury) increased among Young Adults while in ESH, as did the rates of Violent Infractions. The data include “all young adults housed in ESH during the assessment period regardless of whether they were housed exclusively with young adults or co-mingled with adults.” Id. at 7.) 16 July 3, 2017 DOC Variance Renewal Request, at 2.